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Roy Ratnavel writes …

July 28, 2009

National Post – The silent suffering of Sri Lanka’s Tamils

In May of this year, during the final stages of a brutal ethnic civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, a so-called “humanitarian rescue” of civilians was undertaken by Sri Lanka’s armed forces. More than 20,000 Tamil civilians trapped in the conflict zone were massacred.

Thousands of dead are children, and most of them died before they even knew that they were Tamils. Scores of people died in bunkers, or were burned alive and bombed in open spaces. People were also shot at close range by the Sri Lankan army. Sri Lanka had no qualms about using heavy weapons to bombard the very people it claimed to be rescuing. According to some reports, the army even used illegal chemical weapons.

The survivors — many of them maimed and malnourished — were sent to government-run Tamil “welfare villages,” which for some proved to be extermination camps. For survivors, it seems there can be no closure, no dignity, no respect. Many remain effectively as prisoners — cut off from the outside world and, in some cases, subjected to torture, summary execution and starvation. About 1,400 people are believed to be dying every week, and some girls and women have become pregnant due to rape. Even some of the doctors treating the sick and wounded in the conflict zone were not spared.

Through such acts, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, joined the ranks of infamous national leaders who have resorted to slaughtering their own people. As with Slobodan Milosevic, the evidence demonstrates that they possess a murderous hatred toward a specific ethnic group.

The scale of the humanitarian tragedy in Sri Lanka is hard to fathom for us diaspora Tamils looking on from so many miles away. With the military offensive now over and the Tamils behind barbed wires, we would like to ask just one question: Is the world happy with the outcome?

Despite this grim scenario for Tamils, Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority celebrated the war’s end with fireworks and parties as if they’d just won a cricket championship — hardly a sign that accommodation and reconciliation toward Tamils is in the offing.

We told the world, contrary to Sri Lankan government claims, that the safe zones would be anything but safe. But the world did not listen. Words uttered by the world in unison — “never again” — after similar horrors in Europe and Africa have proven to be mere words . Sri Lanka must be called to account for its actions . If that doesn’t happen, then the world is responsible. As Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel recently stated: “Wherever minorities are being persecuted we must raise our voices to protest. According to reliable sources, the Tamil people are being disenfranchised and victimized by the Sri Lanka authorities. This injustice must stop. The Tamil people must be allowed to live in peace and flourish in their homeland.”

Tamil people deserve to be heard by the international community as the pendulum of oppression has clearly moved against them. We hope the world won’t wait until the Museum of Human Rights curates a history of the persecution of Tamils to tell the their story. roy_ratnavel@

Sri Lanka Guardian – Slobodan of Sri Lanka

On May 17, 2009, a singular, notorious act by Sri Lanka made its premiere in Vanni – traditional Tamil land in northern part of Sri Lanka. Entitled by Sri Lanka as “Rescuing Tamil hostages” or as Tamils have come to know as “Bloodbath on the beach” which resulted in over 20,000 deaths and mortally wounded many more thousands of Tamils in few days. In addition to Sri Lankan deviants, it featured many foreign elements like Indian military, Chinese weapons, and Western indifference and cunningness. It appears that Killing and oppression of Tamils is now outsourced. But the behaviour of Sri Lanka before, during and after the war – in particular, based on available evidence reveals inhumane – or worse, former Serbian style ethnic cleansing and ideology.

This act was, and still is performed by many denigrates in the Sri Lankan terror apparatus under the instruction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa – a Slobodan Milošević reincarnate. His evil actions against Tamils, the subsequent deception to the world and derided speeches to maniac masses and monks in Sri Lanka is insulting to humanity, revealing his hate and racial feelings against Tamils and just generally presenting the view of a sick mind. This revolting display has since become a major reference point for anyone – especially Tamils around the globe, requiring a handy example of Sri Lanka’s institutionalized intolerance at its most absurd and most dangerous.

I confess the events unfolded in Sri Lanka this year brought both darkness and enlightenment into my life. Growing up as a Tamil in Sri Lanka I’ve known all kinds of people – corrupt politicians, state terrorists, the victims, the war criminals. Hence I can relate. I can also compare. War criminals come in all sizes and shapes. But they have one thing in common – they are the lowest form of human life. There is an uncanny link between former Serbian President Milošević and the current Sri Lankan President, that is, in dysfunctional countries, if the political culture forbids respectable decent politicians to solve certain national ethnic issues; the country will eventually turn to unrespectable, thuggish ones with sick mind.

After the end of contentious war, Sri Lanka couldn’t even be magnanimous in victory. Singhalese were celebrating with fireworks and parties like they won a cricket championship – further alienating the Tamils and proving victory is not a chance for accommodation in Sri Lanka. As a Singhalese Buddhist political extremist, Sri Lankan President will keep Tamils there in a constant state of fear and vassalage and move the country towards a fascist state. For Tamil survivors of ethnic cleansing, it seems there can be no closure, no dignity, and no respect – at least for now. Regardless of age and sex, they are currently languishing in Sri Lankan concentration camps cut off from the outside world and subjected to institutionalized torture, rape and starvation on a daily basis.

It was to be expected in Sri Lanka, of course, where denial and geopolitics diverted attention from the well-documented involvement of Sri Lankan government and the military in the ethnic cleansing of Tamils. To be consistent with human history, as usual hereto are deniers of atrocities and this one is no exception. They came in droves and from all corners of the world. The surprising one in all this is Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon and the perverse cult run by his Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar. They have single handedly failed the Tamils and turned a blind eye. Under the guise of examining the situation – an earnest quest turned ridiculous, when they released many statements of blatant denials that Tamils were ever subjected to such horror. It makes rest of us wonder about their real agenda.

Why, top diplomats are in denial in what has happened in Vanni? My guess is they dare not travel down that road of justice. The deniers have no case whatsoever, as all the evidence makes incontrovertibly clear. The massively documented stories reveal horrifying tales of killings, torture and abuse; of innocent Tamils imprisoned solely because they are Tamils. Even if it were ever to be proved that Tamils started this war — which has never been true — the fact of ethnic cleansing of Tamils and subsequent incarceration, militarization and colonization by current President is indisputable.

Tamils don’t need outsiders to speak for them: I offer to introduce Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to survivors and victims of past and present Sri Lankan brutality as he can bear to listen to, right here in Canada, who will tell their own stories of the eight or 20 or 30 family members they lost to the evil designs Sri Lanka. He can then tell those Tamils to their face that there were no crimes committed against their loved ones who are now either dead or dying in the hands of Sri Lankan thugs. He can conclude by explaining why Sri Lanka is still not allowing humanitarian organizations to enter the North and to offer assistance to the living Tamil victims despite its illusive victory? Ban should know that simple rule of thumb in conflicts is when you’re not let in, it’s a sign that there’s something they want to hide – a painful lesson learned by the world only after Milošević’s reign.

The parallels between the past Serbian ethnic cleansing and the present cleansing of the Tamils in Sri Lanka are far greater than the differences. In both cases, the evidence abundantly demonstrates that a small clique of extremists planned and organized the bureaucratized elimination of a group planned at various meetings and based on a well-developed, pseudo-ethnic ideology. In Sri Lanka it is a Sinhala-Buddhist ideology.

In both cases, the mission of the extremists was to eliminate in its entirety a minority and their cultural identity, based not on anything they had done but on who they were. In the case of former Serbian President came diabolically close to total success. After his defeat, the world said “never again!”

But here again! Tamils hope for a fair and balanced assessment of Sri Lanka is an important exercise after such carnage; and hope the new International Criminal Court can learn from the experiences of the past war-crime tribunal in The Hague that charged Slobodan – now deceased former Serbian leader, will use the same yardstick on Sri Lanka’s living Slobodan. Crime boss of Colombo should be held to account for his contribution to this untold human misery.

If Sri Lankan President shouldn’t be hanged by the neck until dead, as the current pronouncements would have it, then he – and the Sri Lankan military – nevertheless must be called to account for what they have collectively done to Tamils in Sri Lanka. If that doesn’t happen, then the world is responsible – if not for what happened to Tamils, at least for what is yet to come. If the world doesn’t come to terms with what happened, there’s little chance of reversing Sri Lanka’s ethnic cleansing tendencies.

We told the world, contrary to claims; safe zones are anything but safe. We told the world, contrary to claims, that Sri Lanka had no constitution to protect Tamils. We told the world, contrary to claims, that Sri Lanka is a murderous, scurrilous state. We told the world, contrary to claims, that the Sri Lankan invasion of Tamils’ homeland would not be the beginning of the end of war, but merely the beginning of end of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan state, its proxy killers and apologists cannot explain away Sri Lankan atrocities. Everywhere we turn; there are reminders of the demons that have been unleashed by Sri Lanka in the name of fighting terrorism. The world may deny justice to Tamils and move on. But the Tamils can’t move on. The vibrant, dedicated, resourceful and capable Tamil Diaspora will never forget or forgive that Sri Lanka has killed many thousands of our children, and most of them died before they even knew that they were Tamils.

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