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Tamil civilian victims in Mullivaikal, 2009 Sri Lanka.

Tamil civilian victims in Mullivaikal, 2009 Sri Lanka.

In Geneva the UNHRC discussed a very funny joke: the Sri Lankan government doesn’t want to listen to its own recommendations.

Of course the tragedy of the Tamil people is not about that. The UN ( even the UN!) realized that something of heinous magnitude happened in Sri Lanka. In their report, it is alleged that 40 000 civilians died. And these are the conservative figures of the UN.

The government agent for Mullaitivu Imelda Sukumar testified for the LLRC that the population under her control in January 2009 was 360 000.

When the Tamil civilians started to reach the Sri Lankan army after the defeat of the LTTE in May, the official figures were 280 000.

Even a UN official can realize that there are 80 000 missing. If you visit and talk to the survivors, they will tell you of a carnage.

The Sri Lankan government chased like wild beast almost half of a million of Tamil civilians. The Sri Lankan government exploded the full blast of its fire power against those civilians, starving them of food and medicine. This to me is something we should discuss in Geneva.

tamil slaughter

Tamil civilians killed in Nandikadal Lagoon

When in May 2009 the Tamils in the Nandikadal Lagoon and opened fire, what they were expecting? It is a fact that in that area there were more than 300 000, so many come out. When you are bombing with heavy shelling a strip of beach with that multitude of children, elderly and women, the casualties cannot be but enormous.

The Western countries have no interest in dealing with this serious subject because they have a biggest concern in other issues. India needs to exercise its sphere of influence on Sri Lanka, including the economic exploitation of its position and side. The oil exploration in the Mannar Basin is benefitting Indian companies, which are listed in London, so the UK is mild against real pressure on Colombo. Besides, London sells weapon to Sri Lanka and has no intention of losing a client. Similarly France is just entering the oil scene in Sri Lanka and had already paid its fee (allowing the murder in Paris of LTTE leader Parithi). But also the Tamil leadership has some responsibility: they keep on hanging accountability and justice to the causes of Eelam. They don’t really ask for justice, unless is coming with independence. And of course nobody at present has the minimal intention to give them a new state. So it is really nobody’s intention to discuss what really happened in Sri Lanka.

Let’s talk instead of LLRC and its implementation; this is really a topic, which will bring no harm to anybody. You have a case of genocide and in Geneva your discussion is about LLRC. Sad.

tamil massacre

Tamil civilians were massacred by the Sri Lankan attacks

tamil protest

Protests in Tamil Nadu continue over Sri Lankan Tamils issue.

Recent history showed that it is very difficult to try bloody leaders when they lose the war: Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death, Milosevic was tried, but died before the verdict, Gaddafi killed in a summary execution. Only Charles Taylor has been convicted and for crimes committed in Sierra Leone, not his own (Liberia). Bashir in Sudan could be the next one, but with strong opposition from the Arab countries. As you can see, it is almost impossible to put on trial state leaders. And these had lost the war, they were on the wrong side. Croatian leaders with very similar responsibilities of Milosevic haven’t been even mentioned; Kosovar gangs of criminals have been rewarded with independence. It goes without saying that misconduct, abuses and tortures committed in Iraq and Afghanistan are out of the agenda.

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation

360 000 Tamil civilians have been chased, bombarded and starved out.
Photo: Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation

So the idea of starting such a process in Sri Lanka is remote, very remote. Further on it is very clear that the chain of command points straight to the top: President Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya.

More than 80 000 Tamils have been massacred; the army targeted civilians on such a scale, that mass graves are visible from the satellite[1].  And the government was talking of a “zero civilians casualties policy”. You wouldn’t expect from the Rajapaksa administration an outspoken confession; but from US and Europe a more resolute stance to bring justice and accountability.

Rajapaksa won the war and is winning also the post-conflict. I’m convinced that war crimes have been committed: only independent investigations could verify this claim. Given the procedures currently on-going in Geneva, we have almost the certainty that a war crimes case against Sri Lanka will never take place.

 

mullivaikal massacre 2

More than 80 000 Tamil civilians are missing from the last assault in the Nandikadal lagoon, where the people have been bombarded by heavy artillery.

 

 

 

no war franceFrance became the global defender of peace and international justice when it antagonized the USA for the war in Iraq. Legions of citizens looked at Paris as the guardian of civilization: again the nation of liberte egalite fraternite stood against the brutal, warmongering forces which regularly try to strangle the universal values of citizenship and human rights. Very well, nice, lovely. Only, France didn’t oppose USA for those reasons; it is true that they considered the war in Iraq as unlawful: but the big problem was that they were excluded from the loot, not the war itself!

In fact France is not against colonial imperialism: it was one of the major colonial forces in the past; what France object is to be left behind in the race. In Iraq Paris could clearly see that the Iraqi oil was going all in American pipes. Mon Dieu! Never again!

france warSo when the Arab spring shook the region, France was more than ready to invade another country and to plug French pipe in the Libyan oil wells. The war in Mali signifies a new commitment of France in Africa. Mali’s undersoil is supposed to contain uranium, oil, gas and gold[1]; it is also a neighbour of Nigeria, which has an increasing agitated scenario by its own Islam groups[2]. Whatever the reason, France is on the move to re-assert its sphere of influence[3].

kouchner milibad

France and UK foreign ministers Kouchner and Miliband meet Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa.

So I have a rule of thumb: if you see a French diplomat on the move, ask yourself what business is in sight. During the last days of the Eelam War, we saw Kouchner and Miliband (respectively France and UK foreign ministers) running to make pressure on Colombo’s government. What kind of pressure? Well some photographic posing, speeches in favour of human rights and the rule of law. In brief, absolutely nothing. Now, Great Britain has very clear economic interests: they sell weapons to Sri Lanka and they are actively involved in the oil exploration in the Mannar Basin. Cairn and Vedanta are listed in London, though they are Indian companies. But France will remain seated while others are making money in the usual colonial way? Mon Dieu, impossible!

Parithi killing in Paris

LTTE member Parithi Killed in Paris, 2011

Last year a former LTTE leader (the secessionist Tamil movement, defeated in 2009 with the massacre of 80 000 civilians),  Nadaraja Matheetharan alias Parithi was killed in Paris by agents of the Sri Lankan secret services[4]. My big question was: how France can allow such a move on its soil? Especially after Sri Lanka should maintain quite a low profile with the international community and the West… What happened?

Well Cairn and Vedanta don’t hold an exclusive of exploration: they have concession for ONE zone. In the 2013 Sri Lanka will organize another round of auctions. Which are the front-runners? Exxon and Total[5]. I think we’ll hear a lot of noise in Geneva about committee and votes, and alignment, and new resolution and all this sort of empty talking. I suspect that the murder of Parithi was a “gesture of good will” from France in the perspective of the oil exploration rights bidding. totalHuman rights declaration is not worth the paper is written on if you don’t have the political will to enforce it. Mon Dieu, colonial times are over, can can’t interfere in internal matters, we only give wise, impotent advices. Of course the farcical clash of interest is merely superficial: the government of Sri Lanka can show its citizens and supporters that they stand against the old colonial power, the European countries can show their own citizens, they stand for the right cause, but diplomatic route will take time. And we have plenty of time, don’t we? History is not written in a day, oil contracts are. Anything else left to discuss in Geneva?

UNHRC and Sri Lanka

UNHRC and Sri Lanka

The upcoming UNHRC will very likely vote a resolution against Sri Lanka. The US had made clear it is a procedural on and we can expect India to align itself with the Western countries. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. This is the masterpiece of diplomacy by US, Europe and India, to support the criminal regime of Sri Lanka. In fact all this manoeuvring in Geneva, all this supposed actions against Sri Lanka, in reality are nothing. The 2013 resolution will be merely procedural: it means it won’t bring any novel fact, only it will require to implement the 2012 resolution. It is the case that 2012 resolution, the big betrayal of India against Sri Lanka, was in fact another joke. In 2012 the US sponsored resolution asked the government to implement the LLRC. Now, LLRC was the recommendations for the government by a committee nominated by the government. As you can image, the most serious allegations and issues weren’t touched even marginally: the LLRC was a toothless instrument.

rajapaksa smilingThe focus on LLRC is a diplomatic mirror to elude the reality of fact: the US, Europe and India can confront Sri Lanka on that irrelevant field. Sri Lanka will respond, UN will make more pressure, finally they will find a compromise. Everybody is happy, the West shows it has forgot Sri Lanka, India can say that they fight for the Tamils on the international stage and Colombo can cry on this fake diplomatic defeat.

Can we remind ourselves that the problem in Sri Lanka is not burocracy, or the implementation of a recommendations made by the government to itself, but the serious allegation of war crimes and genocide.

Can someone tell the Tamil diaspora that fighting these risible battles doesn’t make any difference? That if you “defeat” Rajapaksa on this, you are actually losing? Rajapaksa will accept this pressure after long negotiations: do you know that after such compromise, you can’t start to ask something else immediately?

You will win the Geneva vote in 2013 and that will have zero consequence in the process of accountability and even less in the protection of the Tamils in Sri Lanka now.

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.

 

children of warIt’s not about the Tamils, even less the LTTE. The war is over and the plight of an independent Eelam is not part of the debate now. But we have a carnage of innocents. Even the UN, the most cautious and cowardice institution of the planet, recognized that a huge number of innocents died. Estimate from the World Bank put the number even higher, 100 000. The bishop of Mannar reached 140 000. But this is not bean-counting: these are other human beings. The final figure is less relevant than the meaning of what happened.

It seems like a game, that the higher the better for the Tamil cause, the lower, a score for Colombo. Wrong, badly wrong. In such a massacre, everybody is a loser. And responsible. This is what people don’t understand in Colombo and to some extent in Canada, Australia and the UK. It’s not about the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

sri lanka war crimes

Summary execution of Tamil men by Sri Lankan soldiers.
Photo: Channel 4/ Getty Images

We need justice for 100 000 human beings and their family. This is a collective mourning. World politics can push two groups to commit heinous mistakes. As the community of citizens of this world it is our duty to find this misconduct and to sanction it. I’m not interested in scoring for the Tamil cause, this won’t take the independence of Eelam a step closer. The Tamil community will think about this tragedy in its own terms. This is not the point.

There are credible allegation that an enormous number of civilians died. Women, children, elderly all non combatants. We need to establish the truth of what happened. And we need to know who decided it to go all the way. I want to know the role played by Mr. Rajapaksa, president of Sri Lanka and Mr. Fonseca, command in chief of Sri Lanka’s army. But also by Mr. Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE and Mr. Singh, prime minister of India. I want to know in details why Mr Karunanidhi, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, didn’t oppose the political decision in support of the offensive. And it’s mandatory to understand why the European governments, in primis the UK, didn’t raise an eyebrow during the worst days of the massacre.

situation_report_25th_april_tamilnational_bannerI want to know all these facts because otherwise I’m an accomplice. It’s not about foreign intervention in a sovereign state: it’s being human and feeling mercy and shame for what happened.

If you can kill all this human brethren and we don’t care, we are not humans anymore.

My appeal goes to the Sinhalese friends: please, help us in restoring justice.

If you think you were on the right side of justice in your fight against the LTTE, if you think that your actions were correct and fair, you want to know the truth more than everybody else. If you are compassionate about the life of every animal and plant, if you spare blood in religious sacrifices, then you have the right mindset to understand the horrible responsibility that all of us share with such a crime. We need to investigate the carnage to restore a righteous course of action. It’s not sovereign intervention. It’s human compassion.

Riots May 1958 – A Tamil passenger was taken out of the vehicle and beaten up

In July 1983 it is claimed that a spontaneous violence of the Sinhalese population spurred against the Tamils. It wasn’t the first time. Most notably in 1958, but during the ’60s and ’70s, tension was registered amongst the two ethnic group. Or better: anger and violence from the Sinhalese majority towards the Tamil minority. In fact the killing of the Four Four Bravo patrol was the first example of organized, Tamil aggression. Critically, against a military target.

So, from independence in 1948 to 1983, you have 30 years of growing animosity towards the Tamil minority, which is less and less tolerated. And precisely for that, the Tamil population tried to maintain a very low profile. Indeed the request was simply to exist as a distinctive community, with its own language and cultural identity, within the Sri Lankan state.

Pogroms against Tamil

This is crucial: the Tamils demanded only to exist as Tamils. And they conducted a very peaceful and non violent struggle. And the constant denial of the Sri Lankan state produced a very logical and obvious outcome: if the Sinhalese can’t tolerate the Tamil presence within the same state, it will be better to have a separate one. The request of an independent, separate state indeed came to prominence only in the ’70s, when it was clear that the state couldn’t or didn’t want to protect the Tamil citizens.

This is a point. The official position of the Sri Lankan state has been of mediator between the violent request of the Sinhalese majority and the peaceful resistance of the Tamil minority. It seems as the Sri Lankan government identity is shaped by the containment of Sinhalese justified violence against the Tamils. And sometimes you have to let steam off. It is only but natural that once in a while the majority will overcome its barely repressed tolerance and slash the obnoxious presence of the minority. This is more or less the message. That the Tamil presence is unnatural and it is not completed eliminated only because of mercy by the majority. But you can really blame it if reacts when provoked.

And when a military action took place like in 1983, the reaction involved all the Tamil community. And that was one example where the government couldn’t really defend the minority.

But this impotence was an act of will. In fact the pogroms done by the so-called ‘mob’, were actually quite organized and planned. Properties were carefully targeted, people picked up, check point set up and weapons made available. Most important, the police and the army didn’t really intervene and crack down this form of violence. The state has the right and the duty to eliminate any challenge to its sovereignty. The LTTE attack is an example and the ‘spontaneous mob violence’ is another one. But in the latter, nothing happened. The government actually accepted that kind of violence. You have two possible reasons: the mob violence is actually just an extension of the state will. The government is acting through the thugs, beyond its own legal framework.

Black July ’83 Sri Lanka

Or the government can’t really act against the force that intimately legitimized its authority: the assumption that the Sri Lankan state is founded on the Sinhalese affirmation, which is more grounded that the rule of law. And when the Sinhalese affirmation take a violent form, it is granted legitimacy by its own force. This is a tribal law, whose constitution is illiterate and drawn with blood.

In either cases if you are Tamil, your chances of survival are quite low. Because your state made a point of erasing your identity. Assimilation or elimination. Sri Lanka is not a country for Tamils. Cornered in such a way, some in the Tamil community felt that they had little to lose in fighting till death the Sri Lankan state.