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Forget the LTTE, forget even the Tamils. If you slaughter tens of thousands of people, if you treat the survivors like animals, if you do respect human dignity, then sooner or later you’ll pay that price. And I’m not talking of resurgence of terrorism. Sri Lankans already have the worst punishment: president Rajapaksa, a despot who rules the country like a private property. Sri Lankans decided to enslave themselves to the ultimate dinasty on the island.

The issue is not about the Tamils. It is about impunity and lack of accountability. Clearly the Rajapaksa administration received a green light by the international community. The UN, the West, India let the Rajapaksas walk away after the slaughter of a city like Vavunya (according to UN)(according to the Bishop of Mannar, in his testimony for the LLRC, it is more likely a city like Kandy). What do you expect after that? Any other murder, any other disappearance is petty crime in comparison. The Sri Lankan citizens, all of them, have forget precisely this simple fact: how can you call for justice, after that?

Any misconduct, from threatening journalists, to assaulting judges, is trivial. Moreover, do you think the right of law can be exercised if you have skipped so quickly any investigation about the end of the war?

The Sri Lankan citizens have been lured by their government, but also by a majoritarian ideology and a guilty sense of ownership over the island, that any dissent can be buried by any means. The LTTE started an armed struggle out of desperation. The leadership of Prabharakan soon spiralled in a vortex of violence for the sake of it; it was a response to the oppression and devastation of the Tamil culture and identity. Most important, the deranged trajectory of the LTTE didn’t represent and include all the Tamils. The elimination of 40 000 human beings is a crime of genocide. Forget Tamil Eelam: if you are a proud Sri Lankan, so proud that you’ll never consider the division of the country, then you must act immediately to seek the truth. To bring justice to human beings and to Sri Lanka, to the good name of Sri Lanka.

Poor Sri Lanka, if you think that killing innocents is a good way to honour your country, if you think that the blood of children, elderly and armless unfortunate, is a good way to worship this Buddhist soil.

Are you really convince that a Buddha will be pleased by this bloody sacrifice, that to hold a flag in his name, you had to rape, torture and massacre thousands? In what kind of hell have you fallen, my poor Sri Lanka.

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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.

In some part of the North, the soil is actually red. You could mistake it for a Martian ground. But the real sense of estrangement comes from politics.

The history of Sri Lanka and the surrounding region, is a complex one. Major interests orbit in the Indian Ocean; China and India are testing each other; India is still a work in progress as a conglomerate of ethnicities, powers, traditions. The elimination of the LTTE was a move that found too many, too powerful supporters. But the problem resides in the way it has been achieved: a military conquest with a barbaric massacre of civilian population and. We have two clear issues in the aftermath of the IV Eelam War.

The first is that war crimes have been committed. Atrocities were common during the civil war, many done by the LTTE as well. This is by no means an excuse to condone what happened in the Vanni in 2009. The Mullivaikal shores are the emblem of such carnage.

President Rajapaksa unveiled a monument in Pudumathalan, not far from the shores of Mullivaikail, where the last massacres took place.
Courtesy to Sudath Silva

The second is that the military operation was conducted against the LTTE, but the Tamil aspirations haven’t been addressed. Actually it looks like that the ‘Sinhalese State conquered the North’ and its  aim was to subjugate any form of alternative to the majoritarian culture.

Anybody who is dealing with the situation in Sri Lanka knows very well that the army is an oppressive presence; that Tamils are struggling to have the same rights of the Sinhalese, not more, as in the case of the provincial councils . The government wanted to punish the Tamils to reassert a dominion, not be questioned anymore.

Then it comes the circus of media mainstream. On July the 26th, the government issued a plan to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. It is a government appointed commission that should inquiry about any measure to be taken to prevent the occurrence of another conflict. In other words it’s a judgement about what happened and what should be done to prevent another ethnic conflict. The reason for the conflict are quite simple: the Tamil minority has been oppressed and cornered to such an extent that its reaction went out of control, in the form of the armed struggle of the LTTE. The IV Eelam War saw the total annihilation of the LTTE and also the complete subjugation of the Tamil civilian population. President Rajapaksa is the architecture of this final, extreme solution. So you shouldn’t expect that a commission appointed by him could achieve too much.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa
courtesy Commonwealth Secretariat

But the farce it has only begun. We are discussing the reasons of the conflict on the merit of an inquiry promoted by the very perpetrator of the final massacre. But now the subject is precisely this: we are discussing the LLRC. And supreme irony, the government struggles to implement even the farce it has established.

The commission has no power of investigating correctly what happened and even less the will to go to the roots of the discrimination and the oppression. But just talking about that, just mentioning the facts is too embarrassing for the government. And it should be. Only in Sri Lanka you can really debate about those facts: they did happen, everybody knows (everybody, including the USA, Europe and the UN), and yet we are arguing about the LLRC.

Buddhist monks, supporters of the government, march towards the U.S. Embassy, to urge the United States to withdraw its support for a proposed U.N. Human Rights Council resolution on alleged abuses during the country’s civil war, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

In March 2012, the UN commission for the human rights approved a resolution ‘against’ Sri Lanka. Much of the Tamil community was ecstatic for this victory, especially because India sided against Colombo. The crude reality of facts is that New Delhi fooled the Tamils, because the vote was powerless. You can celebrate the mere happening of such a friction between Sri Lanka and India, yet if you are waiting for concrete intervention, don’t hold your breath. But the votation actually stated that Sri Lanka should at least implement its own recommendations.

On the 26th of July president Rajapaksa decided to issue the new action line for the implementation of the LLRC, dismissing that it did because of international pressure, you don’t know if it’s time to smile or to cry.

It seems really a parody to discuss the Tamil issue and the situation in the Northern Provinces on the bases of the LLRC. Let’s start with demilitarization. Civilian officers are replacing military ones. “95%”, or so they say. And we are discussing these figures? If you ask the people in the Northern Provinces, they’ll tell you a different story. You need to ask the permission of a army commander to do everything.They are militarizing the mind. Between 60% and 75% of the Sri Lankan army is stationed in the North.

Constant abuse, from intimidation to rapes are normal stories in the day to day life of the Tamil. Most recently, the problem of land grabbing from the army. It is a growing phenomenon that attract some attention. The army is confiscating land from the Tamils. These are just few examples, but the message is that the government has no intention to take seriously the Tamil issue. You don’t need to be an extremist to see that this is simply preparing the ground for a growing tension. Far from reconciliation and unity, it’s just another chapter in the oppression of the Tamils. The LTTE took a wrong path, but you can easily see why it all started. Yet, the LLRC is telling you another story. And bear in mind, they can’t even implement that.

courtesy Daily FT


On July the 23rd 1983 a small group of Tamil rebels ambushed the Four Four Bravo convoy of the Sri Lankan Army. The rebels, a cell of the LTTE, killed 13 out of 15 soldiers of the patrol. A very severe and negative judgement should be expressed on the overall activity of the LTTE: the Tigers committed several crimes; precise and detailed account are available from international and independent sources. Any Tamil should be more aware of the dark side of the Tigers. The LTTE in many, too many occasions hit civilians and innocents. But in that infamous July of 29 years ago, the target was military, completely military. Within the legal framework of a state is clearly an act of aggression, but it is not even criminal. In fact the rebels stands precisely to contest that framework and they suspend themselves from the law of a state they consider oppressive and unjust. Other laws stand, though. It’s the beginning of war and wartime laws apply. For example, it’s not murder to kill a man of the opposite faction, under appropriate circumstances. But must of all, the laws of humanity apply. Civilians per definition are exempted by the hostilities (and soldiers who surrender).

On the other hand, the state has all its right to eliminate this challenge to its authority and sovereignty. The Sri Lankan army would have been on the right side, had responded to Tigers’ fire.

But it didn’t.

President Jayawardene, few days before the riots, said on the Daily Telegraph:

‘I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now… Now we cannot think of them. Not about their lives or of their opinion about us… The more you put pressure in the North, the happier the Sinhala people will be here…really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy’

This is very clear statement that the government is not interested in suppressing violence against the Tamils. These words came out two weeks before the riots.

What happened is that ‘spontaneous mob’ targeted Tamil citizens and properties. People have been decapitated, burned alive, massacred. And the police and the army took very bland and superficial measures. Some members of political parties actually took active part in the violence, leading groups of thugs. Nobody has been seriously prosecuted for those events. The lack of intervention of the state was a clear message that the killing of the Tamils is a legitimated action. At least in the framework of an ethnic pogrom.

Now, in political theory the state has the monopoly of violence: the government had the right of responding to the LTTE attack precisely and only for this reason. From a theoretical point of view, the mob violence is a form of insurgency and a challenge to the state sovereignty of the same nature as the one of the LTTE. Mob violence should be treated as terrorism. Instead the government let it go. It didn’t take appropriate counter measures, it didn’t punish people responsible. In other words, it tacitly condoned the event. Well, as we have seen, not even so tacitly. The words of president Jayawardene are heavy as rocks and sharp as swords, in the agitated context of the July 1983. The pogrom of the Black July is a responsibility of the Sri Lankan state. The Tamil insurgency started appropriately with an army to army aggression, whereas the government reaction continued to target civilians and to be ethnic oriented. No surprise that this single-minded racial violence escalated to a civil war. It is out of the question that the start of war was caused by the oppressive and violent stance of the Sri Lankan government.

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courtesy indianexpress.com

The Sri Lankan government and the LTTE became entangled in a vortex of violence and brutality. It is undeniable that the blatant disrespect for human life and dignity as the ferocity of the atrocities escalated is the responsibility of both sides.  The difference is that Pranhakaran’s Tigers were an underground, clandestine organization, whilst the Sri Lankan government is part of the international assembly – it is a democratically elected institution regulated by internal and external treaties and normative systems.

The Sri Lankan government had the legitimacy to eliminate the LTTE, who were executing targeted attacks against the civilian populace in alleged retaliation to civilian deaths by the hand of the Sri Lankan government.

courtesy ATP/Getty Images

Herein the problem lies, as you need to morally distinguish your actions from theirs.  Instead, Colombo mimicked the spirit of the cancer it wanted to destroy, retaliating indiscriminately and unnecessarily murdering tens of thousands of civilians.

The LTTE and the Sri Lankan government were so similar that they become one the mirror image of the other”.

(Dr Saravanmuttu, Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, interview for the documentary ‘A Sri Lankan Quest’).