Archive

Military

A documentary about the last days of the Sri Lankan civil war, the eradication of the LTTE and the brutal massacre of thousands of Tamil civilians. Our investigations suggest that the military operations were driven by a hidden political agenda and substantial economic and corporate interests. Follow the story to know more.

Advertisements

Warning: disturbing content!

In 2009 the Sri Lankan army crushed the Tamil insurgents, the LTTE. More than 360000 Tamil civilians were trapped in the fighting theatre. The Sri Lankan government established a “No Fire Zone” to protect the civilians. According to the UN Panel report, more than 40000 civilians died. Less conservative figures put the toll at 80000. This footage was taken from the No Fire Zone on 10th of May 2009.

The government of Sri Lanka claimed that it pursued a “Zero civilian casualties” policy; in an interview with NDTV, Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa stated that no more than 100 civilians died[1].

Any possible debate about Sri Lanka can start only after the vision of these images. They are crude, but they are testimony of what happened.

IV eelam warIn this year, the IV Eelam War broke out. After the attempt of the Peace Talks from 2001 to 2005, both parties strove to resume hostilities. Many reasons have been added for the failure of the peace process. For the LTTE and especially its leader, Prabhakaran, the agreement was to far away from full independence. Of course that target was impossible to reach through negotiations, therefore only the military way was open for that purpose. On the other side the Sri Lankan government had promised even too much in the eyes of its more nationalistic constituency. Therefore in 2006 everybody was keen to start again the war.

Erik Solheim and Velupillai PrabhakaranPhoto nation.lk

Erik Solheim and Velupillai Prabhakaran
Photo nation.lk

The biggest loser was Norway. The Nordic country in fact dedicated a lot of efforts to find a deal. If you consider that from 2001 TGS-Nopec, a company specialized in seismic survey for oil exploration, was showing enthusiastic reports about the possibility to find petroleum reserves, you may guess that the government in Oslo had some undisclosed interests. If you add that the special envoy, Mr Erik Solheim, just on the brink of the Peace Talks ending was nominated Minister for International Development1, with specific interest in the oil sector, for the Norwegian initiative “Oil for development”,Norad2, (see Solheim’s activity in Ghana3, Sudan4, Angola5).

 But Norway is not the only country in the world searching for opportunities in the oil sector. China and India in the same period were involved in a tough race to secure contracts for natural resources

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

around the world. The competition was so strong, that their bidding war was driving prices up everywhere. Thus the two Asian giants decided to form an alliance. “The agreement aimed at preventing the two nations competition for oil assets pushing up prices, symbolises their increasingly assertive role in global energy politics” (source: Financial Time).6

 One of the first country to test this alliance, was precisely Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa, soon after he received information about the possible presence of oil in the Mannar Basin, decided to get rid of Norway and offered India and China one block each 78.

We are far from saying that the Peace Talks were interrupted for the oil discovery; we are also not affirming that the IV Eelam War was oil-driven and that the India and China support of Sri Lanka was motivated purely by the natural resource deal.

We can see a series of coincidences and we argue that oil played a role in Sri Lanka, maybe only a secondary one, but not completely marginal. Norway is our first indicator; the Nordic country didn’t though it could provide more transparency on its conduct, but had clearly a vested interest in the peace process in relation to the oil reserve. China and India had additional reasons to back

Anti-lankan protest led by politician and activist Vaiko in Tamil Nadu.Photo onlanka.com

Anti-lankan protest led by politician and activist Vaiko in Tamil Nadu.
Photo onlanka.com

Colombo, but it was a clever and opportune gift from Rajapaksa to offer natural resources in exchange of their help. In particular it could have represent the convincing point for New Delhi, to intervene without hesitation. India has oil operations on its side of the Strait, and the idea of leaving oil reserve in the hands of the LTTE or China alone could have been the decisive argument to make move. The energy sector is more vital and strategic for India that any other alliance of convenience between China and Sri Lanka.

If you think that oil doesn’t play any role in conflicts around the globe, then you can ignore our thesis. On the other hand, if you assume that natural resources are too important in contemporary geopolitical scenarios, and so are always involved, maybe to different extent, you may be tempted to spend more time on this hypothesis.

 

This a reply to  Why a Large Defence Budget is Highly Beneficial to the Nation” by Dilrook Kannagara

Here’s the original post.

 

The article itself is quite petty minded, but it is an important evidence of a mindset. The principles which inspired it, are a fundamental element of debate. It is impressive that Mr Kannagara has the guts to say them explicitly. The courage of course to speak without any spark of intelligence. Yet, his vision is a  a profound insight into the most deranged thoughts of a majoritarian, warmongering mindset.

Is he serious? No of course he is not. But he participates in the ideological mainstream which at the end drives the tragic destiny of Sri Lanka. So even these pathetic words, are actually responsible for the general climate of intolerance, violence and brutality.

I couldn’t resist to respond. 

The Singapore point: similar treat? What on earth has in common a city-State like Singapore with a country like Sri Lanka? If this is the argument then why not saying that Colombo has the same duty and responsibility of North Korea, so Sri Lanka could spend an entire 25% of its GDP. And why not trying to reach the military expenditure of the Soviet Union during Second World War?

The employment point: military expenditure to pay salary? Wouldn’t it be better to give those salaries to doctors and teachers, to improve the services for the citizens?

Handsome return point: maybe you are right and if you are, it is precisely because it was spent on an ongoing conflict, it could make sense. At that time. The argument against military expenditure now it is because that very conflict is over. 

Unvalued return: here you are definitely right: Sri Lanka is a regime, where people don’t feel free and in possess of their right. It is a country run by thugs and their arbitrary will. They wanted to kidnap the Secretary of Judiciary Commission in plain daylight. When there is a clash between executive and judiciary power. 

People are scared and want to flee. Only if you are part of the regime, you are happy and secure. So yes, the only place where loyalty is not in discussion is the army: this is a clear admission that Sri Lanka is an authoritarian State. Well done!

Sri Lankanisation of the North: that’s the most beautiful. Thanks, really because you say in plain words what is the secret mission: to occupy a territory and to destroy cultural identity. That was the reason for the armed struggle, that is the reason why unrest will always torment Sri Lanka. The problem is the military solution. Not the other way round. 

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),

Sellam(15),

Ragavan(16),

Thangarasa Vasanthakumar(06),

Mylvaganam Gananathan(14),

Ranijithkumar Rajitha (11)

 

The LTTE was a formidable war machine. For almost 30 years it challenged the Sri Lankan army and in many occasions, it won. Prabhakaran left the peace talks also because he thought he could win on the field his own dependency. But now they are gone, both Prabhakaran and his invincible army. The Sri Lankan government is understandably concerned of a future threat, so it keeps the Northern under a tight military control. But this is just half of the story.

True, Colombo needs to keep an eye on the Tamil nationalism, but the belligerence of the movement is alive especially in the hearts of the diaspora. The Tamils in Sri Lanka are tired: most of all of violence. But also of empty proclaim. Even the last LTTE faced not small difficulties in recruiting new cadres. They had to enforce conscription. This led to a simple fact: maybe Colombo is far from winning the hearts and minds of the Tamils, but a new, military organization, ready to destabilize the country, is not in sight.

courtesy JDSrilanka

President Rajapaksa has two other, different reasons to maintain the militarization in the North. One is logistics: he needs to find a place for his army. The huge Sri Lankan army, with all its ramification, is a fantastic employer. But it’s better to keep the soldiers far from the capital. During the Roman Republic, a law imposed that no army could come closer than the Rubicon. Mr Rajapaksa don’t really fear any military man: his brother, Gotabaya, is firmly in control of the military side. General Fonseka could have represented a menace. In the past. Nothwistanding, it’s better to keep some of the boys far away. And the Northern and Eastern provinces are the ideal place.

 But there is a second, more important reason. The IV Eelam war hasn’t been an anti-terrorism operation: an entire people was under the oppression of the majoritarian extremists and it rebelled against them. But it’s fundamental to underline a fact: before the fall of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan state was never entitled to keep that land. Surely, after the independence, it nominally received sovereignty over the whole island. But the North and the East are Tamil. Or at least they are as Tamil as the South is Sinhalese (the concept of minority is outside the Ceylonese horizon and it will stay there for a while). As soon as the Tamil nationalism gained conscience of its means, it overthrown the state presence with ease. The LTTE was a remarkable war machine and Prabhakaran an exceptional war leader. But their success resides in the first place in the real balance of forces: that the North was Tamil. And it has been since a good millennium at least (century more, century less).

Therefore when the Sri Lankan army crushed the LTTE, it was actually enforcing a military conquest., rather than re-establishing the rule of law and the lost sovereignty of the state. This entails that the military presence in the North doesn’t look like an occupation: it is one. The issue is not military: no young Tamil has really the will to start a war. They prefer to risk their life on a boat to Australia. The army doesn’t have to rein a rival force. It just need to re-affirm itself. also the reason of the land grabbing in the area: the army is confiscating land. Pure and simple loot.

The mere presence is required to affirm the Sinhalisation of the North. Sinhala boots have to walk in the North to fix the conquest.

It is very likely that the Syrian government target civilians in its repression of the insurgents; it is also quite possible that the West, led by the US would see very favourably a regime change in Damasco. Pretty much as it happened in Lybia. It is also quite undisputable that the current Syrian government is an authoritarian oppression of the Syrian people. We noted that the big supporters of the Rebels are actually Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Now we have some perplexities about the real intentions of subverting a despotic regime, with a democratic system. Normally the big sponsor of an activity holds the key of the future of that activity. We doubt that Saudi Arabia and Qatar will support any democratic effort by the Syrian civil society.

courtesy Getty Images

And here we commence our Odissey. Is it right to fight a tyranny? Well, yes of course. But the natural expectation is to install a better government, not worse. All the premises in the Syrian case are suggesting that indeed Damasco isn’t any closer to a fair and democratic society. Middle East expert Robert Fisk is right in his analysis about the contradictions of attitudes towards this crisis, both from Westerns and Arabs.

The overall impression is that good principles are just waved in front of public opinion simply to make it swallow any kind of dirty operations. It’s Real-politik, baby. Or simply international relations. Really is there an educated audience, which still believes in those principles?

Reuters

I’m sorry, but I do really believe that those principles are important and that the public opinion is really supporting them. And it is very unfair (anti-democratic) to operate against it. There are good reason to fight Assad, as there were to Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. But it is absolutely paramount the way you reach that goal. If you combat anti-democratic governments, because they are anti-democratic and you use anti-democratic means, don’t you see a contradiction? Am I naïve?

I think that for governments is becoming more difficult and difficult to cover up all their dirty operations. Recently the New York Times investigated the Al-Qaeda infiltration in the Free Syria Army, the Dutch journalist Orlemans confirmed that version . Why it is all right to be in the same war of Al Qaeda now? Is it really true that anybody figthing my enemy is my friend? The West was the sponsor and the founder of the Talibans in the ’80s, when Saddam Husseins was an ally ( a paid one).

The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeinen advanced the hypothesis that the Houla Massacre, the carnage that shocked the world and accelerated the opinion making against Assad, could have been actually committed by the rebels. But the UN as recently as two weeks ago pointed out the Syrian regime as the sole responsible.

This is wrong, grossly wrong.

Mullivaikal Massacre of Tamil civilians, May 2009

In 2009 the Sri Lankan government kept on saying it was conducting a ‘humanitarian rescue’. It was barbarously slaughtering thousands and thousands of civilians. According to the UN report, more than 40 000 (double of that in Syria), but different sources put the figures at 140 000. For who are we fighting as a society, as a (group of) civilization? Geopolitical interests come first, the people don’t really need to know, they don’t care, they like reality show and new tech gadgets. It seems to me like a give them brioches. But those people are able to get informed and to shape their opinion, quite rapidly now (thanks to the tech gadgets and the like). And I think that those ‘Jihads’ against ‘antidemocratic’ countries, with such antidemocratic means, should undergo a profound process of rethinking. Propaganda is there, is everywhere. But the civil society is growing very fast anti-bodies to unmask those lies.

I still believe in the principles of democracy and human rights. And I don’t think I’m a dreamer, and surely I’m not naïve.