The UTHR [Jaffna] became better organized over the last few weeks. Information was transmitted until the new military offensive of 23rd August, with the aim of relieving the Jaffna Fort. Information with regard to the situation in Jaffna collected by members of the university community together with Pax Christi, was published in our Special Report No.1. We also received help from students in reporting on the situation in the East.
In addition to reporting on events, the current report also gives reflections of our members on issues which will deeply concern those organizations working towards restoring peace. We argue from experience that a ceasefire which merely seeks to end the fighting without the enforcement of human rights and lay the foundation for the people to participate in deciding their future, would only lead to worse disasters. As an organization, the UTHR [Jaffna] suffered its greatest loss when Dr. Rajani Thiranagama was murdered just after the announcement of a ceasefire. The first anniversary of her death falls soon on 21st September.
Concerning a ceasefire and the allied question of rehabilitation, we hold that it is important to look into the legitimacy of the parties concerned. We contend that no party can claim legitimacy unless it arises through a broadly democratic process. In the absence of that the parties cannot deliver the goods they know are necessary, and their moves will be governed by the need to survive in power, whatever the cost to the people. Events in this country bear ample testimony to that.
What we want from our friends is not to decide, directly or de facto, which party represents the Tamils or who represents the Sinhalese. But we would like, and do need help, to establish conditions for peoples participation in deciding their future. To act as though a people is represented by persons who regularly perform detestable acts is damaging in many ways. For one thing, such representatives can in practice deliver very little that they promise in their rational moments and frustrate most attempts at helping the people. Another is that such associations diminish the humanity of the people. Once it is assumed that the natural representatives of the Tamil people perform inhuman acts, it is easy to justify bombings and massacres of Tamils. Similarly, to assume that a legitimate government of the Sinhalese can only carry on by regularly exterminating hundreds and thousands of Sinhalese, carries terrible and totally unjustified assumptions about the Sinhalese people. The problem we are posing is not an academic one, but concerns life and death.
In this respect, we must also ask our friends to be alert about the kind of reporting that is done on events here. Tamil civilians are often questioned following the impact of something traumatic, such as aerial attacks unleashed by the state. In their helplessness and anger, people may come out with expressions of support for the only force they see as standing between themselves and the state. Even otherwise in a culture of terror where the people are powerless, it is commonplace and instinctive for people to talk in order to survive. When casual assessments are made about the kind of leadership the Tamils desire, it trivialises both the tamil people and their aspirations.
On the other hand, to understand the peoples feelings at some depth, some of the questions to ask are: Are they moving towards the kind of future they want for their children? Why are people trying to send their children abroad rather than accede to the demand of the leaders to fight to the finish? Is it pure selfishness? Does it help Tamil interests to have themselves identified as supporting the killing of Sinhalese and Muslims?
What went wrong if the Tamils were reported to have desired the departure of the IPKF a year ago and want India to intervene now?
Such questions, to which answers would reveal a complex phenomenon, are seldom asked. It becomes only too easy to assume that people in the third world like to have some peculiar leaders, while for the Germans to have a like Hitler was an aberration. While a concerted effort was made after the second world war to ensure that the socio-economic factors which were conducive to the rise of Hitler do not recur in Germany, the real needs of the third world lie buried below comfortable assumptions.
ABOUT THE WAR
On the governments part, it is acting with greater license against Tamils than what it would have found difficult to justify in 1987, as the massacres in the East would testify. The unstated policy that is in operation now in the East, is the old one of marginalising Tamil influence through a mixture of terror and state sponsored colonization. The reader should weigh the evidence. The aerial strafing of starving civilians in Jaffna seeking food and shelter is given legal sanction through curfews. These are not curfews imposed for the safety of occupying troops, but are supervised from the air. Despite the weeks of time available, no moves were made by the government to seek the help of the ICRC and of civilian organizations to organize centres where people can be sheltered and fed without being molested from air or land. In normal times feeding the people of Jaffna requires 100 lorry loads or 500 tons of food stuff a day. Figures available with government will show that only a small fraction of this has been getting through for the last 3 months. It is dishonest for the government to evade this fact by accusing the Tigers of black marketeering. It is plainly inhuman to restrict the movement of civilians under such conditions, whose other alternative is to starve. The description of the bombing as a policy of destroying the concept of a Tamil homeland by bombing the house of Tamils, as a parliamentarian put it, does not appear to be far from the truth. It is hard to imagine how such a policy could have been justified in human terms, even against an alien people.
Visitors and human rights activists from overseas who came to this country were deeply shocked, that local NGOs and churches were carrying on with almost total insensitivity to the fact that their own country men in this small island were being bombed by their own government. They appeared oblivious to sitting on a powder keg themselves, where the lid was being pressed down hard on anger iniquity seething below.
On the LTTEspart, there is reason to believe, that out of tactical considerations at least, the leadership is not keen on news of massacres of Muslims and Sinhalese.
faced with a disillusioned Tamil people, the LTTE has to depend more on overseas publicity of the governments atrocities _ with which the government, as always, is readily obliging. But what happens on the ground reveals either a lack of clarity in its thinking, or both. The events in Kalmunai during June represent a scenario that has been repeated again and again during the struggle.
Prior to the massacre of the policemen,11 soldiers in a group that had come to buy vegetables in Kalmunai were killed. The civilian population itself was disgusted with the manner in which their bodies were desecrated and dragged with ropes. They were lying in public places for six days, until health authorities intervened. The LTTE then withdrew knowing well what would happen to the people. The voiceless people, already afraid with their sense of decency violated, were left cowering in their homes and refugee camps, awaiting the inevitable holocaust. A feeling, sometimes unconscious, which guides such actions is that civilian deaths are good for propaganda. The scenario in Trincomalee was similar. What happened was a caricature of the LTTE propaganda leader Anton Balasingams pledge, We will not hesitate to take up to arms to defend our people and carry on our aims.
If the government had really cared for the Tamil people or had wished to win them over, the forces should have behaved in a disciplined manner. Then the people themselves would have shared their feelings. Instead, their behaviour sent the survivors running to the jungles, where the LTTE was, for safety. The government itself is instinctively or deliberately following a course of creating conditions for justifiable genocide.
It is no use talking about army psychology. The army as an institution has degenerated with the political culture of this country. Prior to the slaughter of Sinhalese Youth in 1971, the army was evolving under its use in breaking up the Tamil satyagraha in 1961. Its subsequent history in Tamil areas in the 60s, was one of increasing indiscipline and insensitivity to the law.
What has become evident in the militarisation of the Sri Lankan state during the last decade, and its increasing complacency with indiscriminate killing, is that it now feels itself strong enough to disregard international human rights pressure. This illusion of strength is supported by the approbation or silence of nearly all persons and institutions of influence. This is why the governments efforts to promote the LTTE as every ones common enemy must be resisted. This alluring notion has cast a veil over what is being done to the Tamil people by the state. The fact that the government which embraced and strengthened the LTTE can now bomb the Tamils on the absurd grounds that they are harbouring the LTTE is an example of how external interference can make the people powerless. The LTTE must be confronted for what it stands by the Tamil people. The requires sympathetic external pressure of the kind that will help the people to find a voice in their destiny.
For the moment government will continue in its disastrous course thinking itself strong. The truth is that it is faced with economic disaster, a Sinhalese people tired of war drums and an army showing signs of weariness with the political leadership. [See Appendix II]. The annual cost to the country of the Middle East crisis is put at US $500 million. The government will go on playing with the war, unable to win and lacking the will to seek a political solution. soldiers marching through manifolds will not relish the thought that their leaders gave the LTTE 7 tons of explosives, over 2000 AK-47S, several lakhs of ammunition rounds and several hundred LMGS. (Karunakaran M.P.in parliament, 19th July and other sources). [This makes it even more unlikely that a surrender of arms by the LTTE was part of the LTTE-Premadasa deal as the government has insisted]
The war will be fought on crude, low cost terms. General Ranatunga told a press conference (Island 31st August), In a populate area an unidentified targets taken on by the pilot with great risk. (To whom?) The Defence Minister added that they still do not have guided missiles. The Minister had earlier made a sensational announcement in parliament that the government was setting up a massive refugee camp in Vavuniya to accommodate the 800,000 strong population in Jaffna. It was announced at the same press conference by the General that the government was setting up a refugee camp in Vavuniya that would take in refugees from anywhere, including Jaffna. The Rehabilitation secretary added that it would take in 5,000 for a start! A rumour spread by the government through a defence ministry press release that the LTTE was preventing food from getting to the civilians, was denied by the ICRC in a rare press intervention. In fact the army had disallowed an ICRC food convoy from diverting from a pre-assigned route to avoid crossing lines of combat at Mankulam(Sun 5th September). These illustrate the degree of seriousness about Tamil civilians.
There has for years been a wilful blindness to the plight of Tamil civilians. during the Vadamaratchi Operation of 1987, civilians who had constructed air raid shelters were in may instances killed as having done it on LTTE orders. Even officers spoken to could not understand the stupidity of punishing civilians.
Today, when the government says the LTTE is demanding 2 gold sovereigns from people, it does not acknowledge the governments duty to protect people from expropriation. But the context rather indicates that is an additional excuse to bomb them.
When it says that Tamil children are being forced to join the LTTE s baby brigades, a duty to protect children of the nation from an awful destiny is not acknowledged. But its actions indicate that it feels justified in killing Tamil children.
The direction of the war is not towards victory, nor are there attempts to win over civilians and isolate the LTTE. But it is moving towards creating conditions for justifiable genocide by identifying all Tamils as terrorists. This is the logical aim and culmination of the ideology which was at work during the 1983 racial violence. A great misfortune of the Tamils was to have themselves, from a position of weakness, given birth to an ideology which devalued life of other communities as well as its own.
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