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Defeated, friendless Tamils face annihilation

July 16, 2009

SRI LANKA: Defeated, friendless Tamils face annihilation
by Dr John Whitehall
News Weekly (Australia), July 11, 2009

…The victory was won with overwhelming firepower that fell indiscriminately on the Tamil Tigers and civilians and included such banned weapons as cluster bombs. Some 20,000 civilians are believed to have died, with Colombo’s military victory assured by the support of China.

The real victory, however, was inevitable, thanks to Western governments which, during the “war on terror”, proscribed the Tigers as terrorists and categorised them with the likes of al Qaeda. This gave Colombo an apparently higher moral ground to do what it wanted. It also invited the Western audience to imagine the Tigers to be like Islamic terrorists — presumably unrepresentative of peoples under their control and committed to the destruction of Western democracy and culture. The war in Sri Lanka turned on the word “terrorist”.

But were they terrorists? Certainly, they employed terror, but so had the Colombo state. However, the Tamil Tigers were not like the Vietcong or al Qaeda which emerged from hiding simply to destroy. During the 2002-06 ceasefire they were a de facto government administering land traditionally belonging to the Tamils. They ran their affairs through ministries of health, education, welfare, agriculture and sports, as well as police and security. They were certainly an autocratic if not a military dictatorship, but they perceived the Tamils as facing genocide at the hands of the majority Sinhalese…

Read full article here.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Australians for Tamil Justice permalink*
    July 8, 2009 3:39 pm

    SRI LANKA:
    Defeated, friendless Tamils face annihilation
    by Dr John Whitehall
    News Weekly (Australia),
    July 11, 2009.
    Web site: http://www.newsweekly.com.au

    On May 19, the Sri Lankan Government declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who, for some 25 years, had led the struggle for autonomy for ethnic Tamils in their traditional region, the lowlands of north-east Sri Lanka.

    The victory was won with overwhelming firepower that fell indiscriminately on the Tamil Tigers and civilians and included such banned weapons as cluster bombs. Some 20,000 civilians are believed to have died, with Colombo’s military victory assured by the support of China.

    The real victory, however, was inevitable, thanks to Western governments which, during the “war on terror”, proscribed the Tigers as terrorists and categorised them with the likes of al Qaeda. This gave Colombo an apparently higher moral ground to do what it wanted. It also invited the Western audience to imagine the Tigers to be like Islamic terrorists — presumably unrepresentative of peoples under their control and committed to the destruction of Western democracy and culture. The war in Sri Lanka turned on the word “terrorist”.

    But were they terrorists? Certainly, they employed terror, but so had the Colombo state. However, the Tamil Tigers were not like the Vietcong or al Qaeda which emerged from hiding simply to destroy. During the 2002-06 ceasefire they were a de facto government administering land traditionally belonging to the Tamils. They ran their affairs through ministries of health, education, welfare, agriculture and sports, as well as police and security. They were certainly an autocratic if not a military dictatorship, but they perceived the Tamils as facing genocide at the hands of the majority Sinhalese.

    In my three months’ stay in their de facto capital, Kilinochchi, teaching Tamil medical students, I used repeatedly to ask people, “Why did you join the LTTE?” Their consistent answer was: “To fight for Tamil survival”. They knew of the history of racial oppression against them by the Sinhalese majority; they simply wanted freedom to rebuild their civilisation. Unlike al Qaeda, the Tamil Tigers had no international goals, nor even the ambition to conquer all of Sri Lanka; they merely sought to secure what they believed was historically theirs.

    As for the Tamil people themselves, they deserve better than to be stereotyped as potential terrorists, especially after they have fled to Australia. Given access to the Sydney Opera House, they would rather sing in it than blow it up.

    In my opinion, the Tamil Tigers were best understood as a movement for national liberation.

    The term terrorist implied the Tigers were a tiny minority in the Tamil population; but I began to question that when I visited some of the military cemeteries in which some 20,000 had been buried. Can a minority force that huge commitment?

    I attended the Tamil equivalent of ANZAC Day and mingled with thousands of family members of the dead who were placing flowers and food on the graves. There was overwhelming sadness but a commitment to the concept that the dead had died worthily for Tamil Eelam — the Motherland. They did not die for, or because of, the Tigers as an organisation, but for the ideals they pursued.

    It appears Western governments swallowed the impression that the Tigers were unrepresentative of the Tamil population; but the actions of Colombo since victory reveal that the Sri Lankan Government understood differently. Since victory, Colombo has incarcerated the entire population of the north-east, some 300,000 people, not the handful of terrorists they claimed they were fighting. And, despite Colombo’s earlier propaganda that the Tigers were a tiny force, no fewer than 10,000 combatants have also been incarcerated.

    Colombo has promoted another deception that the Tamils are merely internally displaced people (IDPs). However, it has kept Tamil civilians under military guard, without any publication of their names, without any access to aid organisations or to journalists, and in physical conditions described by independent observers as “terrible”. Deaths from hunger have resulted from this collective punishment, which is proscribed by the Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, Tamil combatants are being held in secret camps and denied the rights of the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war.

    According to Colombo, the Tamil population of the north-east is being kept for “rehabilitation from LTTE propaganda”. In other words, an entire population, including mothers and children, is being incarcerated until it learns to think differently. But how can it possibly lose its fear of racial annihilation? Its current treatment will merely reinforce its conviction that it faces genocide.

    Genocide

    On a more practical level, Colombo is also claiming it is too unsafe for the Tamils to return to their homes because of land mines. However, it is currently taking the opportunity to further its established practice of settling Sinhala residents in vacant Tamil regions (a breach of Geneva Conventions against genocide).

    And what of our proponents for freedom in the United Nations? On May 26, a special session of the Human Rights Council was held to consider Sri Lanka after the High Commissioner, Madame Navi Pillay, declared the need to “address the tragic human rights and humanitarian consequences of the conflict in that country … [and the existence of] strong reasons to believe both sides have grossly disregarded the fundamental principle of the inviolability of civilians”. She thereupon called for “an independent and credible international investigation into recent events … to ascertain the occurrence, nature and scale of violations”.

    The UN council, however, rejected the call for investigation and instead congratulated the Sri Lankan Government for its victory over the terrorist LTTE. The council affirmed the Sri Lankan commitment to “sovereignty” and was “encouraged” by its handling of displaced persons.

    The resolution was adopted by 29 votes to 12 with six abstentions. Those in favour included Russia, China, Cuba and the African and Islamic blocs.

    The conclusion by the UN Human Rights Council utterly ignores the legitimate rights of the Tamil population and is a disgrace.
    Under the concept of “sovereignty” and the need to overcome “terrorism”, this UN council has not only ratified the destruction of the helpless Tamils, but has thereby endangered members of government-persecuted minorities everywhere.

  2. Ray Harris permalink
    July 16, 2009 10:39 pm

    Great article! China’s invicible hand is too busy turning Sri lanka into Burma!
    This strategic island in the Indian ocean slipped from India and the West to China.

    Sri lankan 16 family member regime also signed pact with India that no Western powers can setup ports in Trinco the main harbour.

    Recognizing Eelam would be the only way for the West to get Trinco.(British left in 1958).

    West also has a sizable Tamil diaspora contributing since colonial times. Eelam Tamils well educated and excellent administrators. Even if Sri lanka becomes the Hong kong of India, it still needs the Tamils to run it.

  3. Mani permalink
    July 17, 2009 1:38 am

    Very good article

  4. John Ricardo permalink
    July 17, 2009 7:58 am

    This is what they called ‘throwing the baby with the bath water’. The baby is the legitimate liberation movement of Eelam Tamils, the LTTE, and the bath water is al Qaeda.

    It is shameful that the western world which calls itself ‘civilized’ has been encouraging, funding, advising and providing all kinds of help to the genocidal government of Sri Lanka.

  5. July 17, 2009 9:32 am

    Thank you Dr Whitehall. You have in your article expressed the very essence of the Tamil struggle for a separate state and for their struggle spanning a period of 6 decades to live in their traditional homelands.All they asked was to be left alone to manage their own affairs. They never considered the Singhlese as their enemies, just to live side by side. India,China,and Pakistan provided the arms and the Western states provided the moral support. It was a no-win situstion and hundred and thousands of innocent Tamils have died for no fault of theirs.It is a sad situation.

  6. Kapila Jayasooriya permalink
    July 18, 2009 1:28 am

    I am ever grateful to you for your commitment for the tamil cause in the island of lanka.

    i however beg to disagree with on one point you were trying to make by saying “However, the Tamil Tigers were not like the Vietcong or al Qaeda which emerged from hiding simply to destroy”. i have no question and any doubt of mentioning al qaeda as it is a fundamentalist terrorist group. one cannot draw a parallel between al qaeda and ltte. nor do anyone can draw a parallel between al qaeda and viet cong. it is quite the opposite. your mentioning of viet cong, i believe, is an absolute paucity of knowledge and an absolute misinterpretation of the tamil liberation struggle led by liberation tigers of tamil eelam (ltte) over a period of three decades against an invader of the tamil homeland. more importantly despite the grave dangers they were facing ltte never got aligned with imperialist forces in the region or else where.

    http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=72

    http://www.newstatesman.com/200502210015

    viet congs never invaded usa which was tens of thousand miles away. they never emerged to destroy. they had the most powerful imperialist force – usa in their homeland – homeland divided to fight. they did it. they did it courageously. bravery they showed in liberating their homeland from american imperialists was inspirational to liberation struggles world over which made che guevara demand to create 1000s of vietnams. i am sure vietnam’s struggle must have been an inspiration to the freedom fighters of the tamil liberation struggle.

    in case of tamil liberation struggle for self determination in the island of lanka, the sinhala state was backed primarily by india and usa over a period of many many years. well china came into the picture to exploit geo-political advantage which never overwhelmed the support the american and indian imperialism showed to the sinhala state of lanka. it was supplementary. liberation tigers on the other hand fought american / indian imperialism and chinese expansion / domination as exactly viet cong did.

  7. Ray Harris permalink
    July 19, 2009 1:17 pm

    Meanwhile, the culprits(Ghandy family) is enjoying their second term of looting. They started Tamil tigers pretending they couldn’t get the sinkalla mouse to give federilism to Tamils. Tamils were 1/3 of the population before the ethnic cleansing started in the name of fighting tigers.

    200,000 Tamils perished for what? India shouldn’t call itself a super power.

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  1. Video of the Aug 31st CPACS, ACIJ forum on “Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Emergency” « Australians for Tamil Justice

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