Sri Lanka- let’s try again


by Rumbold
29th April, 2009 at 12:08 pm    

An article in the Economist summed up the behaviour of the two sides very well.

The LTTE:

“A well-organised and vicious terrorist group, expert in brainwashing and suicide-blasting, the LTTE has maintained its fief—which until late 2006 extended over almost a third of the country—by murder and fear. Moreover, having sabotaged a peace initiative of the previous government, and helped it lose an election by imposing a boycott on Tamil voters under its sway, Mr Prabhakaran has had the war he was asking for.”

The government:

“In its rush to exterminate the Tigers—partly in justified fear of their skill at manipulating foreign opinion—the army has shown a cruel disregard for Tamil civilians crowding the battlefield. Earlier this month the UN estimated that since early January, when the Tigers’ fled their northern capital, Kilinochchi, driving perhaps 200,000 civilians before them, some 4,500 had been killed and 12,000 wounded. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has evacuated over 10,000 wounded civilians and their relatives from the no-fire zone, said on April 20th that hundreds more had been killed or wounded since the army made its breach.”

The question is, how does the international community ensure that the Tamils are treated well in the post-war period?


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  1. pickles

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  1. Amrit — on 29th April, 2009 at 12:25 pm  

    ‘when the Tigers fled – no apostrophe, unless a word has been omitted…

  2. Golam Murtaza — on 29th April, 2009 at 3:29 pm  

    The Tamil Tigers’ fanaticism has proved their undoing in the long run. They’ve progressively alienated the same people they claim to be fighting for. But that’s not as if that lets the Sri Lankan Government off the hook. Its military victory – when completed in the next month or two – will surely be a tainted one. Let’s hope the Government politicians have the common sense to keep any celebrations suitably muted. (Though I’m not holding my breath).

  3. Mango — on 29th April, 2009 at 7:19 pm  

    Good topic for some constructive points.

    Must do
    De-mining & weapons clearing
    Security, above all security.
    Basic utilities – power, clean water etc
    Food
    Shelter
    Schools
    Separate hard-core LTTE from conscripts and ‘ordinary people’.
    Indian involvement & assistance.
    Keep Sinhalese extremists in check.
    Time. Lots of it.

    Must avoid
    International NGO circus – especially those known to have helped the LTTE with equipment & funding.
    Norway, You’re barred!
    Sanctimonious lectures from Milliband & EU
    Int’l Human Rights circus, especially HRW.

    I believe that, unlike in Iraq, there is a post-conflict reconstruction plan. The liberated Eastern Province is a good starter point, although it’s not perfect.

  4. Pineapples — on 30th April, 2009 at 9:01 am  

    The international community can’t and won’t do a thing. Their initial reticence to intervene at this urgent stage, and now their utter ineffectuality once they have gone in, is evidence enough of their impotence.

    The Tamil population will have to hope that Rajapakse & Bros show far more foresight in the post-war period than Sinhalese majority leaders of yore. As The Economist notes in the article you cite, that isn’t likely to happen.

  5. Mango — on 30th April, 2009 at 10:33 am  

    Pineapples,

    There’s a reason for the Almighty IC being politely shown the door. LTTE terrorism is being destroyed by Sri Lankans themselves. I won’t bore you with well documented instances of IC assisting the LTTE.

    How exactly should the IC intervene? Any intervention, other than ensuring total & unconditional surrender by the LTTE will not be accepted by SL.

    This govt, however unpopular it may be with Western liberals was elected. One of its’ key commitments was to finally defeat the LTTE on the battlefield.

    The bitch-slapping administered yesterday to the UK’s ridiculous Milliband is a case in point of how architects of Iraq, Afghanistan, Extraordinary Rendition & destroyers of wedding parties are not in a position to lecture SL.

    When Miliband interrupted him to say that Britain had information that civilians had been harmed due to the army’s firing, the Defence Secretary said Britain should not be duped by the disinformation campaign the LTTE was carrying out. “Even BBC is dishing out LTTE propaganda material without verification,” he told Miliband.

    Miliband said his claim was not based on BBC reports but credible information elicited from sources in the LTTE-held no fire zone. Apparently annoyed, the Defence Secretary said anyone who knew the LTTE would not believe that any reliable information would emanate from that area under its jackboot. All the stories that were disseminated from the no fire zone, he told the British delegation, were all doctored by the LTTE for the consumption of the international community and the western media. “Do you think a terrorist group like the LTTE will allow anyone to express independent views detrimental to its cause?” he asked.

    The Defence Secretary said it was up to the British delegation to decide whether it should believe what a terrorist group said or what a responsible officer of a legitimate government told them. “The choice is yours,” he said.”

    http://www.island.lk/2009/04/30/news18.html

    I’m sure Milliband will get his revenge on these uppity ex-colonial subject for showing him to be the fool that he is.

    HRW is even more despised for their most recent contribution. Brad Adams is acting as some sort of colonial governor issuing instructions to rebellious natives. This sort of drivel has been met with the contempt it deserves. You’ll not be surprised that most Sri Lankans hold HR organisations like HRW in utter contempt because following their advice would have only one outcome. A revitalised LTTE and back to terror.

    Here’s a detailed demolition of the HRW’s most recent edict.
    http://tinyurl.com/dfcow7

    The Rajapkase brothers have to be given the benefit of doubt. The SL voters will not allow yet another 30-year war to recommence. Let’s see what happens rather than assuming that things will instantly revert to status-quo-ante.

    Finally, the UK’s indulgence of the Eelamtard Diaspora has seriously compromised its’ position as a serious player in the post-war reconstruction.

  6. Mango — on 30th April, 2009 at 11:33 am  

    Blowback from the Eelam struggle.

    http://tinyurl.com/d748yq

    Expect more stories like this. Let’s see who’s been helping the Eelamists… Is that the sound of shredders at work ?

  7. Arif — on 30th April, 2009 at 5:31 pm  

    Mango – in your to do list, would you add something along the lines of “truth and reconciliation” or “Sri Lankan human rights commission to prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses” (including disappearances and torture!)?

  8. Mango — on 30th April, 2009 at 9:53 pm  

    Arif,

    Agree 100%. But where to start? The thing is we’d have to go back to the 2nd JVP rebellion (which almost lead to a Pol Pot type Cambodian scenario) which was crushed with incredible brutality, all the way to the current LTTE struggle.

    Govt ministers, LTTE leadership, Police, White van death squads, the Armed forces, the INGOs & Norway who assisted the LTTE’s crimes, the criminal underworld etc. In fact the ending of the JVP insurgency provides some clues. A reformed JVP now has MPs in Parliament.

    Karuna, VP’s ex 2nd-in-command (who committed some hideous massacres) is now Minister for National Integration.

    Sri Lankan’s desire for peace will prevent a wholesale raking over the past. It’s almost a national characteristic – the ease with which terrible events are buried rather than scrutinised because everyone’s got dirty hands; but the Govt’s the least worst option. Think of it as a Sri Lankan version of ‘what happens in Vegas’.

    However, Prabhakaran and his top commanders will not escape to alive to stand trial.

    Here’s the latest picture of VP in his bunker: http://tinyurl.com/7aelv5

  9. Golam Murtaza — on 1st May, 2009 at 6:46 am  

    The lack of response on this thread is depressing. Personally, I’ve always been interested in the Sri Lanka conflict and I was looking forward to reading a decent debate on here. But hardly anyone appears to be getting involved (no offence to those of you who ARE commenting of course!) Compare that to the way people pile onto any thread where the ‘Muslim issue’ crops up yet again. Or the whole I/P thing.

    Anyway, back to what Mango is focusing on. It’s interesting to be reminded about the JVP revolt. A very bloody era in the Sinhalese south which so many people appear to have forgotten about. Worth mentioning.

    If there is to be no form of justice commission would that not increase the risk of people’s bitterness and desire for vengeance causing this conflict to start again in another ten or 20 years? Just a thought.

  10. Mango — on 1st May, 2009 at 10:14 am  

    Arif,

    If the ordinary masses chose to pursue that way of thinking, there’s enough bitterness and revenge to last ’till the end of time.

    Look at Karuna, who was responsible for massacring over 600 surrendered Policemen. He’s entered mainstream politics (like McGuinness) and as far as I know, the murdered Policemen’s relatives aren’t looking for revenge.

    I think people are so tired and sick of this war, after 30 years of this constant high to medium level violence. They want it ended as quickly as possible. Since all sections of society have been victims and perpetrators of violence and HR-abuse, where do you start with dispensing justice?

    Economic & social development is the best antidote to a resurgent insurgency from any section of SL’s ethnic divide. Village electrification = clean running water, power, fridges, fans. Stuff we take for granted.

    As for PP posters not responding, perhaps the SL conflict is too complex for those looking for a simple good vs evil narrative? On the “racially defined separate state” LTTE corner, there’re Hindus, Christians, Muslims and even a few Buddhists speaking Tamil & other languages. On the “unitary state of all ethnicities,” there are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims & few Hindus !

  11. Arif — on 3rd May, 2009 at 10:12 am  

    Mango,

    “Where do you start dispensing justice?” I know this question is formed from exasperation at the number of past injustices in such a small country with many urgent needs. But I would ask you to reflect on your question in a different light. How can any legitimate authority not make justice its starting point? Without that, the only legitimacy comes from “might is right”. Some effort must be made – even if it is limited in its scope for economic reasons – to show that human rights abuses are not acceptable in the new Sri Lanka, and only a process which is seen to be even-handed could persuade people of this.

    I understand that there are a lot of grievances and a lot of human rights abuses going back a long time. Even if people are not looking for “revenge”, my suspicion is there will still be a strong desire for dignity – not to let people ignore their suffering, or feel they are somehow second-class in the new settlement. And yes it is complex, and I don’t think that an external template should be imposed. However “truth and reconciliation” does not necessarily get in the way of rehabilitation – including letting ex-leaders of insurgencies joining peaceful political processes.

    Raking over the past need not mean returning to the past, in other contexts it can be a way to show a new beginning is being made. The important symbolic value is that it shows that they new start is based on different principles, under which all have responsibilities and rights.

    I understand that economic development is also a major requirement. But development will always be uneven, so again a symbolic commitment to political equality would be important to stop economic conflicts being transformed into violent forms.

  12. Mango — on 5th May, 2009 at 10:35 am  

    Arif,

    I won’t disagree with anything you’ve said here. In fact I’d add that we should start with those politicians directly responsible for planning and unleashing the Sinhalese mobs in July ’83. It seems that everyone knows who they are and they’re allowed to live their lives without fear of prosecution.

    But, I repeat, after a brutal and bruising 30-year insurgency, re-settlement of displaced peoples (some still in camps almost 10 years on), security and economic development will come first.

  13. Mango — on 5th May, 2009 at 2:14 pm  

    Here you go Arif, a re-construction plan by the Bank of Ceylon. No time to waste!

    http://tinyurl.com/c6j3gn

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