Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Sri Lankan Government has a military mindset: it won a war, now it garrisons the peace. Simple as that.

The Sinhalese supremacist narrative told the story of a righteous war: the evil terrorists attacked the righteous Sri Lanka and the brave and peaceful (at the end of the day, aren’t they Buddhist?) Sinhalese were forced to react. 30 years of nightmare were a reaction to the insane plan of a mad leader and his followers. Indeed Prabhakaran was a bloody warrior, he had an obsessive idea and he committed atrocities. But this is only the reverse of what actually happened. The LTTE was a consequence, not the cause.

The ethnic Tamil,working in the plantations, were disenfranchised of the citizenship after independence.

After independence, the Tamils were systematically undermined in the legitimacy of their citizenship: cultural identity, historical heritage were a dangerous claim against the majority. The ideology of a Sinhalese state besieged and threatened in its existence by corrosive forces was the reason of the mandate for president Bandaranaike. The Sinhala Only Act, the decision to downgrade the Tamil culture, was taken on the basis that the simple fact of speaking Tamil is a menace for the entire Sinhalese culture. The Sinhala speaking, Buddhist majority at the time was around 66% of the popultion. The disfranchisement of Plantation Tamil (Tamil of more recent immigration from India: “only” 150 years), put the proportion at 75%. Three quarters of the island is culturally Sinhalese. Nonetheless any presence of difference, is considered a challenge to the majority. The Tamil has been indeed a very influential community. But you can see nowadays the animosity against the Muslim as a product,stemming from the same intolerance.

When in the ’70s the pressure to minimize the Tamil identity started to become unbearable, moderate elements of the Tamil society decided that it was a better idea to second the Sinhalese ideology: if you want a state that is completely Sinhalese, then you can have it. We well retreat to our land of origin, the Northern and Eastern Provinces and secede. Of course the Sinhalese extremists consider this an act of rebellion and used an iron fist to put the Tamils in their place. After that, came the LTTE, a violent, brutal and blind force of reaction against a racist repression.

Note that the decision of living separately and seconding the Sinhalese myth has been considered an act of rebellion. You are a good Tamil citizen if you give up language and culture and embrace the Sinhalisation.

Then it was war, a fight for survival driven crazy by decades of oppression and humiliation. It is ideological to call this conflict a war on terror, a legitimate act of policing against terrorism. It was a civil war, the eruption of ethnic tension provoked by the intransigence of Sinhalese supremacy. The end of the war brought the victory on the Sinhalese side and it is up the victors to write history. Now they can state that any dissent is aligned with the terrorist insurgency. The militarization in the Northern provinces is only the prosecution of the same Sinhalese supremacy: to repress diversity with violence.

The LTTE was a natural consequence of such oppression and the actual exercise of power is the same majoritarian force that caused the reaction. The roots of violence haven’t been eliminated with the annihilation of the LTTE. On the contrary they prosper with under the warmongering regime of Rajapaksa. Nobody but Sinhalese people. This is the brutal, effective message, after the Eelam War. No country for Tamils, no country for Muslims. That implies also: no country for free man (see Lasantha Wickrematunge).

Children killed in a schoolyard bombed

On the 22th of September 1995 government forces started heavy shelling in the area of Vadamaratchi, by Jaffna. The teachers of the Nager Kovil school were quite nervous about the fate of the pupils, because of the nearby bombings. At noon the Junior school ended and so the children went home. The seniors students instead remained. A commemoration was planned at that time, under a tent. At 12:45 a bomb fell among the people, killing instantly 24 children and 15 others. Later many died for the injuries, bringing the final toll to 501.

After a week, the Defence Spokesman admitted the incident. The tent nearby the school was believed to be an LTTE facility2.

These are the name of the victims:

Tharmalingam Usanthini (13),

Markandu Nagalogini (10),

Thamotharam Sakunthala (12),

R. Regina (11),

Pologarajah Thushanthini (14),

Ravindran Amirtha (10),

Balachandran Rajitha (10),

Navaratnasamy Umathevy (12),

Suntharalingam Palani (15),

Suntharalingam Tharsini (14),

Kugasaravanamalai Tharsini (13),

Rajeev Gandhi Venu (11),

Krishnagopal Thavaseelan (13),

Rajaratnam Kavitha (10),

Nagamutthu Senthilvel (15),

Alfonse Amalaviji(14),

Mahalingam Sanmugavadivelan(16),

R. Sumithra(10),

K. Methini(14),

Navamany Mithura(14),



Thangarasa Vasanthakumar(06),

Mylvaganam Gananathan(14),

Ranijithkumar Rajitha (11)


Rajini Thiranagama

Rajini Thiranagama was a doctor,an LTTE member and a human right activist. Her personal trajectory explains much of the Tamil independence movement and represents also a clear evidence of the derangement of such movement in the LTTE incarnation.

In the early years of the armed struggled, she was very much in tune with the aspiration of the Tigers; later on, she become increasingly critical of both the Tigers and the central government. Sge begun to collect evidence of human rights violation by the LTTE and the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF). She was one of the founder of the University Teacher for Human Rights, whose activity culminated in September 1989 with the publication of “The Broken Palmyra”, a book reporting the violence in Jaffna in the 1980s, committed by all parties involved: Sri Lankan government, LTTE and IPKF.

A week later, she was shot dead in front of her house in Jaffna.

courtesy University Teacher for Human Rights, Jaffna, Sri Lanka (

Her spirit is a guidance for everyone who’s committed to bring back Sri Lanka from the hell where has fallen. It is interesting that a person like Rajini in the first stage of the conflict, was aligned with the military struggle. To me it is a clear sign that the discrimination and the oppression of the Tamil community reached such a point that no other choice was available but to embark on a open warfare with the government. And with equal clarity, her condemnation of the LTTE and her subsequent assassination are the crystal evidence of the Tigers brutality. The LTTE stemmed from a natural sentiment of self-defence and justice, but very soon their ideal spiralled into a blind perpetuation of violence for the pure sake of it.

Students walk past a destroyed building in Jaffna [CC HumanityAshore]

The LTTE mutilated any attempt from the civil society to emerge as an expression of the Tamil community and the result was that no other path was available but to fight till victory or dying trying. The horrendous truth is that the leadership chose that direction intentionally: Prabhakaran eliminated such person from the political and intellectual landscape, precisely because they were representing a voice of conscience and a limit to his delirious warmongering.

The LTTE bears heavy responsibility for the way the IV Eelam War ended. Certainly the strategy on the field has been criminal; but much worst than the frantic decisions of a bunker situation, the two decades of terror imposed first of all on the Tamil people are the moral culprit of the tragic end of the conflict.

The responsibility of Sri Lankan government stands in full, despite this evil collaboration. That is why we must keep on, taking inspiration from people like Rajini Thiranagama towards a salvation of Sri Lanka. The German philosopher Heidegger said that: “where danger threatens, that which saves from it also grows”.

So I’m not surprise that in the moral devastation of the Sri Lankan war, you can find great spirit like her.

We commented few days ago about the Eastern Provinces 2012 Elections and we would like to bring attention to one episode occurred in the same area 13 years ago. The LTTE conducted a commando operation in the village of Gonagala, where they killed 50 people: 27 men, 17 women (2 were pregnant) and 10 children.

According to forensic examination, only one has been killed by gunshot, the rest has been hatched. The incident is reported to have happened in the early morning; the Tigers cadres hacked to death all the people they could find in the village, mostly in their sleep. A middle aged man tried to protect himself had his hand cut and skull crushed.

After they finished with the village, they went to a nearby settlement, where they killed 4 more. The details are horrendous and came from a Sri Lankan newspaper1. But also Amnesty International attributed to the LTTE the massacre. Here it is possible to find some images of the carnage (Beware of the disturbing content).

The spiral of violence that caught Sri Lanka for 30 years is almost unimaginable. The LTTE didn’t cause the framework of discrimination and repression, but certainly contributed significantly in the escalation of brutality.

Today we are discussing the responsibility of the government for the simple reason that the LTTE is no more. But it is a duty for everyone involved in the process of justice and accountability in the Sri Lankan conflict to help remember that landscape of horror. There is no excuse for the Sri Lankan government for the civilian killings in the IV Eelam War; nonetheless it is fair to remind the calibre of Tigers’ crimes, in order to understand the sense of genuine relief felt by the overwhelming majority of the people on the island. Including many Tamils.

The Hanged Democracy: Lesson Learnt from the Eastern Province Elections aka LLEAP

Many had debated about the Eastern Provinces Elections: was it a narrow victory or relative defeat for the UPFA? It depends, whether it will be able to form a government. But what if they will be in opposition? It doesn’t really matter, Rajapaksa’s party can celebrate a lavish triumph. They win everything, totally. You don’t think so? Let me explain. First of all, were they fair, the elections? What about the accusations of violence and intimidation? Well, you have to take what you can and under these circumstances, this the best you could get. No completely fair, but neither unacceptably rigged. So you have to swallow it that they were more or less OK.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, former Chief Minister for the Eastern Province, May 16, 2008.
courtesy Gemunu Amarasinghe-AP Photo via Yahoo! News

What is the result then? That we are discussing in a political framework. This is the masterpiece of Rajapaksa: it doesn’t really matter who holds the purely nominal title of Chief Minister, the orders will always come from Colombo. So you can really oppose the government’s will, with regards of important matters. Because if you do it, you can be accused of rebellion and consequently of reviving terrorism. In other words your freedom of movement is tightly enclosed in the framework that the government is giving to you. This is normality, the new normality. It is the democratic life of a country that the debate is within a shared framework.

The only issue is that accountability and justice, will never come out from it; the roots of discontent, the aspirations, the grievances, will remain untouched. No political entity can address any demand and claim of that community. You can participate only in a idle game. No surprise that many from the Tamil community didn’t bother to vote at all.

The second aspect is that you have a community that was chased out and hunted like an animal. Starvation, disease, killings were the means of interaction between the Tamil civilians and their alleged “government”. Only 3 years have passed, with many still in temporary shelters, victims of abuses of every kind from the army, which is a foreign occupation entity in the day to day life. Sexual violence, arbitrary violence, expropriation, land grabbing, the list is well known. And you ask this people, this community to participate “in the vibrant democratic life of the country”, to exercise “their duty of being active members of the election process”, to contribute “to the civic process of their State”. To me it sounds like a bad taste farce.

There is always the option of civil disobedience, as these women and men haven’t suffered enough, weren’t challenged enough. If they think of minding only their own business, attending the work in the paddy field, going to fish and care only of what happened in the perimeter of their houses (without roof, with stolen tiles, with signs of shelling, maybe mines in the garden), can you really blame them?

 The plan of Rajapaksa was to break the morale of a community and after that to blackmail it in a ineffective political game. Quite successfully, I would say.

In an article on The Economist, Gotabaya Rajapakse revealed that his brother said “we have understood who is important to us”. The crucial point is that China is satisfied with the increase of its sphere of influence without asking questions. Palitha Kohona, former Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary put it very clearly: “Asians don’t go around teaching each other how to behave,” he said. “There are ways we deal with each other — perhaps a quiet chat, but not wagging the finger”.

In May 2012 Gotabaya Rajapaksa held talks with his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie , days before the UNHRC move to put pressure on Colombo in regards of the alleged war crimes.
“The two countries’ relations have witnessed smooth development and we have made remarkable achievements since we entered diplomatic relations 55 years ago,” Liang was quoted as saying in the report.

I note that during an intense diplomatic campaign, Sri Lanka is not contacting the foreign office but the ministry of defence.

The Rajapaksa’s clearly proved who is important to them. China will support them in security council. So, no UN resolution of any relevancy can pass. The relationship with Beijing couldn’t be more linear, straight and easy to understand.
And here we have a problem of understanding. Because the more Colombo is aligned with Beijing, the more New Delhi should be worried. If we forget for a second the severe accusations about the civilians killings and reason about the moves in the balance of forces, we have this situation. Rajapaksa strikes a special relation with China closer than ever. India considers Sri Lanka an internal affair; it can’t allow to lose the island. And it has a powerful, handy tool to counterbalance any move in Colombo. It is called LTTE and Tamil nationalism. When Sri Lanka moved too close to the USA in the ’80’s, New Delhi basically invented the LTTE and the armed struggle. So why India decides to give everything up? You may think that they prefer to start from scratch and reinvent in a new form the Tamil militancy, because they couldn’t obviously rely entirely on the LTTE. This is possible. And it takes ages. China in the short and medium term will gain land and influence. It will be much more difficult to evict the Chinese once they are there, than shutting them out in the first place.

courtesy IBN-CNN live

The traditional interpretation states that India didn’t want to lose anymore positions against China, so it supported Colombo. Essentially this version considers India’s move as chasing the Chinese and of course putting president Rajapaksa in the role of card-dealer. I think that Rajapaksa is a clever politician and he knows how to outsell his position. I think that the deals struck with the Chinese are real and effective: i.e. Hambantota will provide facilities for Chinese ships, probably also for military purposes. What I think is not real is a fearful, comatose attitude by New Delhi.
Rajapaksa always shows obedience and submission to India; many pundits comment as false and hypocritical his attitude. And they are upset by the fact that New Delhi doesn’t see how fraudulent and misleading is their counterpart in Colombo. All the Indian officers show extreme confidence in Rajapaksa.

Sonia, Rahul and Pryanka Gandhi

They are convinced that the real big ally of Sri Lanka is India, not China. It seems, they are sure that Colombo is simply milking China. I think that the Congress is not so naïve and is perfectely aware of all the news available to the pundits. I think New Delhi is the card-dealer in the Indian Ocean. And they are not chasing decisions made by Rajapaksa, but granting him concessions, which he will have to pay out. Indian generals are worried by the growing presence of the Chinese. But they are not in charge in power. Others are the rulers and I think that the rulers are not concerned by port given to the Chinese. Of course, with an appropriate exchange.

In other words, I think Rajapaksa is not the card-dealer, but simply a dealer, a middle-man, who is playing a big game in between two giants. He’s taking some risks and he’s certainly taking some good profits. But not at New Delhi’s expenses.

In 2008 the government of Sri Lanka launched the Wanni operation, a final offensive to eliminate the LTTE in their last stronghold in the Northern provinces. President Rajapaksa has been able to convince India of the necessity to get the rid of the LTTE. Of course it wasn’t too difficult to remind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to the Congress Party led by his wife, Sonia Gandhi. But the intricacies of Indian politics were shielding the Tigers cause. In fact India was equally distant by a secession as well as by a complete elimination of Tamil nationalism. But Rajapaksa found convincing arguments (they are secrets, but we discover some facts that can shed light,at least on a couple of them. More about this in the incoming posts) and India sided with Colombo, providing military intelligence and political back up: in fact New Delhi protected Sri Lanka in front of the international community.

A displaced Tamil woman holds her baby at Manic farm in the northern Sri Lankan district of Vavuniya on May 7, 2009.
courtesy AFP PHOTO/PEDRO UGARTE/Getty Images

India didn’t confronted what happened in the Mullivaikal and in the rest of the No Fire Zone and the West basically left the case as a matter under the sphere of influence of New Delhi: it was a subcontinent affair. So the decision of eliminating the LTTE was taken and not much could have been done to change it. But of course the means to achieve that goal were many. Rajapaksa decided to go the hard way, with the intent of teaching the Tamils a lesson, to keep them in their place for the future. Of course this course of action could have been highly debatable. Especially if you consider Tamil Nadu. In the first place, what it is considered right in the far North and Hindi speaking New Delhi, not necessarily coincides with the sentiment of the South Dravidian Madras. 60 millions of Tamils on this side of the Strait have a very different opinion and feel much closer to their brethren on the island. Further on the ruling party in Tamil Nadu,DMK, was also a pivotal ally of the Congress in the national government. And the leader of DMK, Mr Karunanidhi was an open supporter of the LTTE and of the creation of an independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam. In the 1985 he established TESO (Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization) and recently he has been active in advocating again for the cause1.

Former Tamil Nadu Mr Matuvel Karunanidhi with Congress’ Party Leader Sonia Gandhi and India’s Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh

In the last stage of the IV Eelam War You would expect a vigorous campaign in defence of the Tamils and of their most elemental rights. He spent a political career fighting for the cause, even too much for his critics; his friendship with Prabhakaran was a source of controversies. He championed so much for his people and finally he had the opportunity to protect them. But nothing happened. India gave green light to the final assault and DMK remained quiet. Why?

 Well Karunanidhi is a controversial personality for two reason: one for his strenuous backing of the separatist group. The other is for nepotism. And in 2008 on the biggest scandals in the scandal infested Indian politics broke out: the 2G Spectrum scam. Essentially politicians sold at bargain prices frequencies to telecom operators in exchange of personal favours. The national audit commission (CAG), in charge of investigating about the case, calculated the damage for the country in the order of $ 30 billions2. The scandal was big and involved many politicians, civil servants and business. But two politicians in particular were at the center of the scandal: Mr A.Raja3 and Mrs M.K.Kanimozhi4.

M.K.Kanimozhi and her father, M:Karunanidhi

It is worthwile to say that both belong to the DMK and that Mrs M.K.Kanimozhi is also daughter of the Tamils’ rights guarantor, Mr Karunanidhi. It is speculated that the scandal weakened so much the DMK and its leader, that when in 2009 the worst of the IV Eelam War was happening, he didn’t have any chip to bargain for5.

The only evidences we have are these: that Karunanidhi’s family was involved in the scandal and that he was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu during the last phase of the war. And that he remained quiet.

Recently he has been quite vocal in accusing the Sri Lankan government of war crimes. We couldn’t agree more with him, except that now he is talking as an activist, appealing to people in power. When himself was in power, he didn’t say a word. I couldn’t feel more distant from this.

M.K.Kanimozhi sought to revive the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO) in August 2012.
Courtesy: R.Ragu / The Hindu

Tamil refugee woman from Sri Lanka waits for news of her son.
Photo: Kate Geraghty

The Tamil community was left in a state of shock and despondency after the massacres of the IV Eelam War. Grief for the brutal murders but also for the defeat of their fight were and are the dominant thoughts of many amongst the diaspora. The big question is about the other side of the strait: everybody considers India the motherland, protector and guarantor of the rights of the Tamils. How could New Delhi abandon his sons? Surely there are divisions and frictions between the North and the South, but the idea that Indian eyes could watch such a carnage and remains impassive is almost unbearable.

The mistake from the Tamil side resides in considering themselves closer to India, just because Tamil Nadu is a part in the whole of the country. The central power in India has an imperialistic attitude towards its peripheral parts. From the far perspective of New Delhi, Sri Lanka is satellite of its dominion and Sinhalese are equally distant from the centre as the Tamils are. In the eyes of the rulers, a Sinhalese and a Tamil are subjects in the same measure.

In 2002 thousands of Muslims have been attacked in Gujarat. Death toll ranges in the hundreds.

Alongside the same mistake, the Tamils on the island invoke the protection for the minority. But India itself has more than one concern about the importance that you can give to the minority. The most direct correspondence is with the Muslims. They are integral part of the day to day life and yet their feeling and condition is ideologically separated by the main stream of the Hindus. The presence of the arch-enemy Pakistan as a guarantor of the rights of the Muslims, plays, under some respects, a similar role of Tamil Nadu for Sri Lanka: a sanctuary, a stronghold but also an avenger and an accomplices.

Pakistan’s politicians don’t officially back violence and destabilization in India, but only a naïve could think that behind many episodes of terrorism, you won’t find the long arm of IRS. Though many politicians in Tamil Nadu openly supported the underground operations of the Tigers.

Gujarat Riots against the Muslims 2002

How could New Delhi endorse publicly such intrusive behaviour in Sri Lanka, when is victim of the same tactics?

Moreover the Indian sentiment towards the Muslims is probably closer to the Sinhalese rather than the Tamils: a barely tolerated presence, proxies of destabilization and intimately stranger to the mainstream of the state. It is indicative the case of Narendra Modi, the charismatic Chief Minister of Gujarat and one of the leader of the right-wing, nationalistic BJP. His popularity is growing, he is a modernizer, he could be the man to lead finally India along a glorious path. The only issue is that this glorious path is clearly Hindu.

Sri Lanka riots against the Tamils, 1983

The rational follows this line: divisions in the country are slowing down the progress of the nation; to achieve a full, modern development, India must regroup. Implicitly, excluding the Muslims. In 2002 communal riots against the Islamic community, provoked hundrends of deaths1.

The issue is still controversial, propaganda both pro and against made all the picture just more complicated. The role of BJP members is not clear in details, let alone the one of Narendra Modi2. But the moral responsibilities of the carnage should be taken in to account regardless of criminal liabilities. Mr Modi speaks of modernization and development, but communal riots and massacres of members of the minority, hardly fit with a progressive society, based on education and merit.

I’m reluctant to be more drastic, because the future balance of power looks quite opaque to me. I’m not sure that dirigistic, authoritarian regime could not be the normal governance of future development. Maybe human rights, tolerance and inclusion are relics of the collapsing Western societies. On thing is sure: if you are a minority, don’t look at India for protection.

Chhattisgarh Police with Lathi. Adivasis community lament abuses from police and officers in Chhattisgarh.
courtesy Reuters