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Friday, March 15, 2013

IN THE WAKE OF LANKAN GENOCIDE



Hello World,

I have embedded YouTube videos that have content that might be disturbing to some due to the nature of its (violent) content. So watch the videos at your own discretion. You can click here to download the pdf version of this post which will not have the disturbing videos.

I would like to bring to your attention something that has in the recent times, caught the attention of media and public in this region of the world, the claims of war crimes in Sri Lanka during the military ambush executed by the Sri Lankan government to put an end to the Tamil rebel uprising. The Sri Lankan government succeeded in killing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the military ambush. However, several events during the ambush that got documented on photographs and videos seem to project the idea that the Sri Lankan military had violated international human rights laws. As per the videos and photographs that have been publicized by the international mass media, the Sri Lankan soldiers have methodically executed their prisoners of war and also abused and killed civilians in the process. Now for those who are not clear about the photographic/video documentation, please find below the documentary as telecast by Channel-4, a british public service television broadcaster:

 

 


These given below are some more links of similar video footages that have been released to substantiate the war crimes claim:




Before we begin, I would like to make it very clear that the issue has language-based-ethnicity as the root cause. I do not approve of the acts of human rights violation committed. However, the accused here is the Sri Lankan government, including the military agencies, operatives and heads of the Sri Lankan government. Just because there is a language-based-ethnicity in the system, it is absolutely foolish to consider all native Sinhalese speakers and Buddhists from Sri Lanka to be the potential perpetrators of the criminal acts. Those who are responsible for the inhuman acts are criminal suspects, irrespective of their native language or religion. The main reason I am trying to make this clear is because, I speak Tamil. Tamil is my native language. But I am Indian as I was born in India. Apparently, folks around my place here are agitated over the war crimes that were committed in Sri Lanka and are expressing their anger against the Sinhalese-Buddhist government of Sri Lanka. There is however, certain section of the population that has the clarity regarding their inferences and implications on the matter. The causes for the inhuman acts are ethnic identities and the need for establishment of ethnic superiority in the Sri Lankan society. That doesn’t mean all Sinhalese-Buddhists approve of what the Sri Lankan government has done. I have very good friends who are Sinhalese speaking Sri Lankans. I have enjoyed their company in my classroom, workspace and even on the cricket field. We never had any differences with respect to ethnicity. A very good Sinhalese friend of mine has even worked for a Tamil organization in Sri Lanka in the past. Just because certain sections of the local mass media here in India have been repeatedly referring to ethnic identities, the issue under scrutiny has been grossly misunderstood and the craving need for ethnic classification of the accused has taken over the objectivity. So, we will be attempting to analyze and interpret the incidents that took place in Sri Lanka with the perspective of human rights violations and the responsible perpetrators. Their native language and religion is of no use to us since we do not have the objective of spreading contempt and envious thoughts against the ethnicity of the perpetrators. A criminal is a criminal, irrespective of what language he/she speaks and what faith he/she follows.

The Tamil LTTE Cadres and civilians massacred in Sri Lanka are Sri Lankans by birth. The LTTE was formed to protect the Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and they took to arms demanding a separate state of their own. This war has been going on for decades and after a series of cease-fire agreements and failed bi-lateral talks, the Sri Lankan government decided to put an end to the rebel uprising. Now from a democratic stand-point, any government cannot be blamed for attempting to curb internal military conflict due to a rebel uprising. The LTTE took to arms and they were met with arms by the Sri Lankan government. What sparks the debate is the fact that the Sri Lankan government has allowed its forces to go above and beyond the international laws to methodically execute prisoners of war and civilians. Adding fuel to fire is the sexual abuse and physical torture that the victims were subjected to. 

The videos and photographs show the dead bodies of victims naked and mutilated. The male victims were stripped naked, hands tied behind their backs and eyes tied before they were shot from point blank distance. The female victims were stripped naked, raped and hacked/shot to death. I remember that at one point in the Channel-4’s documentary, the Sri Lankan soldiers comment about one of the female victims still moaning while they were loading their bodies on to a truck. This is quite a repetition of the holocaust that devastated Germany in the past, except there were no sophisticated Gas Chambers and organized Ghettos. Additional claims against the Sri Lankan government point out that the international UN-backed organizations and journalists were not allowed to operate in the war-hit regions of Sri Lanka and meet the rehabilitation and emergency medical needs of the wounded and displaced. 

As per the report submitted by the Panel of Experts to the UN Secretary General on the Accountability in Sri Lanka, the panel approves of having identified “Credible Allegations” and has classified them into categories as given below in the excerpts from the report’s executive summary:

About the Sri Lankan Government:
“Thus in conclusion, the Panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations committed by government of Sri Lanka: (i) killing of civilians through widespread shelling; (ii) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects; (iii) denial of humanitarian assistance; (iv) human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors, including both the IDP’s and suspected LTTE Cadre; and (v) human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and the critics of the government.”

About the LTTE:
“The Panel’s determination of credible allegations against the LTTE associated with the final stages of the war reveal six core categories of potential serious violations: (i) using civilians as human buffer; (ii) killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control; (iii) using military equipment in the proximity of civilians; (iv) forced recruitment of children; (v) forced labour; and (vi) killing of civilians through suicide attacks.”


Now the question to be asked is that, in spite of the Panel identifying credible allegations with regards to serious violations why hasn’t the International Criminal Court initiated any legal action to ascertain the truth? In case of Germany, the government that did the war crimes fell and it was convenient for the next interim government to initiate legal action against the perpetrators. In Sri Lanka, unfortunately, the perpetrators are still under the shade of power. Therefore all the communications as documented in the report and the specifics of the recent resolution all beat around the bush of the Sri Lankan authorities to implement recommendations and ensure things are done right. Frankly, this is the biggest political joke of this decade. Asking an administration tainted with accusations of genocide and war crimes to make sure their planned rehabilitation efforts are executed in the appropriate manner is like asking the murderer to choose to apologize to the family of the victims whom he/she killed. 

The reality of the situation may be hard to digest but the simple fact is that innocents have died and those that are responsible for the death and displacement of innocent civilians in Sri Lanka are still walking free and most probably will continue to do so. The only way Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan government under his leadership can be tried for war crime is when the Sri Lankan government falls. In all the cases of tyrant leaders that were tried and convicted for war crimes in the past, with or without international intervention, the trials took place in the courts of the country that served as the origin for the war crime and/or the perpetrators of the war crimes. Given this predicament, even if by a remote chance, the current Sri Lankan government is tried at a court for war crimes, there are high chances that Rajapaksa and team would walk out free in the end. The moment an administration smells legal action against its leaders, they will either vanish to other countries or retire from the post. So during the trial they can easily declare that they are not in power anymore and they were not entirely responsible for what had happened. A few unlucky individuals may get convicted and they too would get an offer of political asylum from another country and accept respectful banishment from homeland as a consequence of their actions. 

The conclusion of the Internal Review Panel Report on Sri Lanka admits that the UN failed to adequately respond to the events that occurred in Sri Lanka. This is the indication that international organizations make compromises with their policies and procedures as long as they know they won’t be in trouble. The United Nations has all the resources and political authority to intervene and operate on issues related to genocide and war crimes but it failed to protect the innocent civilians of Sri Lanka and did not make any move to exert its policies with force. Only when the news got out in the media, they released the report admitting their failures. No point in playing the blame game now that the innocents are already dead but it has to be noted that even the policies and procedures of United Nations and its subsidiaries are not entirely self-sufficient and fail-safe. When things go wrong, there is United Nations but when the UN goes wrong, nobody knows about it until it writes a report on itself and releases it publicly. I would however appreciate the honesty of United Nations to acknowledge and admit its failure in Sri Lanka. Please click here to download the pdf version of the report. 

There is however a big lesson for all of us to learn from what has happened in Sri Lanka. As mankind progresses into a new dimension of civilization, the concept of ethnic identities has grown exponentially in the hearts of humans that goes way beyond the realms of spirit of nationalism. Man has started to learn the importance of his own ethnic identity in an effort to remember where he comes from and what makes him unique. Man has started taking his native language, religion and culture more seriously than before. But the alarming fact is that this has taken the grip of reality to fade away in many a mind and has distorted the way the inferences are made. Now in order to protect one’s own ethnic identity, man has learned to hate other ethnicity and similar identities. This type of “hating others to protect self” type of ideologies have been spreading fast in the past few decades and at times have resulted in large scale violence. The uprising or Tamil rebels, which is a case of separatist terrorism and the subsequent methodical execution of prisoners of war and Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka by its own government is just one example. How far can man go for the sake of his faith, language and ethnic identities? Since when did man create this element of civilization that calls for denouncement and damage of other cultures as an act of retaliation to protect one’s own culture? If hating another culture is justifiable in any sense, then what should we call the culture that teaches someone to hate other cultures? After all, personal choices are but a result of cultural impact on one’s thoughts, sparing the insane and ill-informed.

The Tamils of Sri Lanka have their origins in India. Even though there are claims that they are natives of Sri Lanka, history has it that a major portion of their ancestors were transported from India (from the state of Tamilnadu) to work in the farms and plantations in Sri Lanka. Over the years they settled in Sri Lanka. The cultural rift between the Sinhalese speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, in my view, must have begun because of a non-existent or badly structured immigration policy in Sri Lanka. If the government had devised the immigration policies appropriately and officially accepted the naturalization of Tamils, then the opportunity for discriminating the Tamils would have been eliminated long back. We however cannot waive the possibilities of other social reasons that may have initiated the discrimination of Tamils, which resulted in the LTTE uprising and the sub-sequent war for separate state that consumed lives for decades before culminating in the methodical execution of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government. What we need now is speedy rehabilitation efforts to stabilize the displaced-and-luckily-alive Tamil civilians and legal reforms in Sri Lanka that may ensure equal rights to all citizens. An addition to it would be a revamp of UN procedures to deal with anomalies faced while implementing its policies around the world. At least the “We tried, failed and so they died” explanation may not be used again in response to a mass murder situation. What more can we expect in the wake of the Lankan Genocide?

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