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Sunday, 10 March 2013

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Opinion:

Where are the next of kin of those supposedly executed?

The “experts” and “authorities” must have their say and certainly their voice is far more powerful than that of a country as small as Sri Lanka. They are the ones that make the laws, they decide who the villains and the heroes are, they can make heroes into villains and villains into heroes, they can frame charges, they can also decide not to frame charges - in short it is only their wishes that prevail.


Sri Lanka Army personnel help civilians during the humanitarian operation

Justice is the justice that suits them and not the victims. Victims are who they define as victims on a selective basis, and perpetrators are all those that do not conform to their agendas.

It is with these incongruities that Sri Lanka finds itself being allegedly bullied and thrown figures of casualties that vary between initial figures of 7,000 to 40,000 to 60,000 and now to 125,000.

Given that we accept the figures by these “authorities” – what next needs to be asked is four years on, where are the next of kin of these 125,000 or even 40,000 – why have they not come forward to name the “executed”?

We now come to those who are making these guestimates. US Secretary of State Robert Blake states that 40,000 died, at the US Congressional hearing to which US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega asked, “Why are we picking on a little country like Sri Lanka”.

Faleomavaega recommended that the US Resolution should be withdrawn for “focusing only on the last few months of the war and failing to acknowledge… almost 30 years, ... the Tamil Tigers hacked to death innocent men, women and children in Sri Lanka, carried out some 378 suicide attacks, more than any other terrorist organisation in the world.”

Then there is Gordon Weiss who initially quoted 7,000, but to boost his book sales, that figure changed to 40,000 which he changed to 10,000 at his book launch and disowned responsibility for the change of numbers, denoting the pastime of picking figures from the air to embarrass a nation that eliminated a terrorist organisation banned by 32 nations including the very country bringing the Resolution against Sri Lanka.

Not to miss joining the bandwagon – the UN Panel of Experts too says that as many as 40,000 “may have been killed”. It is this “may have” that is causing alarm bells to ring in all the hallways of the UN and the world.

Gruesome attacks

We can however match the “may have” with numbers and details of every gruesome attack carried out by the LTTE, killing thousands of innocent civilians not in any war zone, but people who had been sleeping in their villages, children on their way to school, student Bhikkhus on their way to prayer, women and children praying at the temple, the ordinary public seated on a bus going to their workplaces, visiting relatives or taking food to a patient in hospital, who were in an instant blown to pieces because a member of the LTTE had disguised themselves as a civilian and left a parcel bomb under a bus seat.

Such attacks are too long to list, but have not had anything more than the usual diplomatically worded statement and it has been business as usual for the LTTE.

The confusions are many. On the ground, there are reports by both UN and Government officials that give one version which can be verified and then on the other, there are the astronomic figures that continue to fall from the sky alleging unbelievable numbers.

If the UNICEF-sponsored Family Tracing and Verification Unit, compiled in 2011, indicate the total number of untraceable persons as 2,564 of which 676 were children and more importantly, out of these children, 64 percent have been reported as LTTE abductions, are we to believe this ground survey or the versions of those who are thousands of miles away and from people who refuse to accept these ground statistics and insist the Government answers to their figures?

If we were to ask any of the other Sri Lanka bashers, it is pretty certain that they may even quote 500,000 or more - and yet, at most, there can’t be more than 2.4 million Tamils in Sri Lanka and one million of them are already overseas ... So these inflated figures are indeed very amusing as their guestimates become higher and higher.

Saved by the military


Mavil Aru from where the humanitarian operation was launched

Additionally, there are the reports by organisations such as the UN, Government Agents, World Food Program and doctors, and their civilian population estimates indicate a highest figure of around 300,000 which corresponds with the figure that the Sri Lankan military saved and the anomaly matches the number quoted by the UN country team as being dead – 7,721 people. What the Government should do is to tabulate the number of Tamils who would have fled the North from 2006 onwards, to live in Colombo or even those who had left Sri Lanka.

Then there is the satellite analysis report on the graveyards in Mullaitivu by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, identifying three graveyards which had expanded to a highest number of 1,346 and one of the graveyards belonging to the LTTE showed 960 burials.

Then there is the Enumeration of Vital Events 2011 carried out in June/July 2011 by Tamil officers (most of whom were teachers serving in the North) on the population in the Northern Province and covers population, migration, deaths and untraceable persons from 2005 to 2009. According to these officers, the total number killed is 7,896 inclusive of LTTE terrorists while the number of natural deaths due to old age and sickness was 1,102.

The 1981 census declared the Mullaitivu total population as 77,512 (Tamils - 69,670/Sinhalese - 3,948/Muslims - 3,777) while all other census figures have been estimates with the 2007 figure placed at 220,311. The 2012 census places the total Mullaitivu district population at 91,947. The Mullaitivu district is 2,516.9(km2).

Mullaitivu was the LTTE hideout and it was from where they recruited and trained their terror forces. It was from where the LTTE recruited its men, women and children apart from the recruitments done in the East of Sri Lanka - all the while, it was low caste, impoverished Tamils who became LTTE fighters. It is good for a proper study to be done to establish the caste factor among LTTE recruitment to prove this beyond doubt. We can assume that apart from high caste persons holding important posts in the LTTE, not a single person from a high caste would have become a suicide member of the LTTE. Anyway, let us analyse these conflicting figures. A leaked UN report placed civilian deaths at around 7,000. The UN Expert Panel report said that a UN Country Team document estimated that 7,721 civilians were killed and 18,479 injured between August 2008 and May 13, 2009, but the UN Expert Panel says the figures are too low to be accepted. What right does a Panel have to completely throw to the dustbin facts and figures compiled by UN observers on the ground?

By May 18, the military operation against the LTTE was completed. Are we to then presume that between May 13 and 18 – in just five days, the Sri Lankan military killed 125,000 or 40,000 people? Why did they then save 295,000 which is no small number and these were not saved together, but in batches and from different locations where the people braved LTTE fire to escape because the LTTE did not want their “volunteers” to desert them.

On February 10, 2009 – the LTTE fired at and killed 19 Tamil civilians while the Army rescued 1,046 civilians in Puthukkuduyiruppu. The dead included two children, five women and 12 men. The UN Panel of Experts also says that the “Tigers kept on fighting even when it became clear they had lost, in order to save the lives of its leaders. This futile prolonging of the conflict resulted in many civilians dying unnecessarily” yet what never gets said is that the Armed Forces saved several LTTE leaders (E.g. Daya Master and George) while Soosai’s family was captured by the Sri Lanka Navy while attempting to get away. Given the presumed notion that the SL Armed Forces are killers, shouldn’t they have been killed?

The UN Panel of Experts also notes that “Tigers shot at point blank any civilian trying to leave the conflict zone”as well as the fact that “Tamil Tigers fired artillery from near civilians. They also stored military equipment near civilians and civilian structures such as hospitals” - nevertheless, apart from mentioning these, nothing has happened about LTTE accountability. We now say - take the LTTE fronts to task for all LTTE crimes.

Very little emphasis is ever given to the fact that civilian deaths should be attributed to the LTTE firing upon them. All the while, it is conveniently concluded that every civilian death has to have been committed by the Armed Forces and no argument! What kind of justice is this? This is how things would have happened in kangaroo courts of the LTTE, but we do not expect such from esteemed places such as the UN!

The decision to militarily defeat a designated terrorist organisation was taken after it had drenched a nation in blood for 30 years. That appears not to matter to the UN or foreign governments. Despite a foreign-brokered ceasefire in place, the LTTE carried out assassinations and cut short the supply of water – a fundamental UN declared right, to people in the Mavil Aru area of the East of Sri Lanka. That decision to militarily defeat a terrorist organisation banned by 32 nations was taken after 30 years of suffering, after listening to foreign governments and when none of their peace recipes offered a solution.

When the GOSL requested the LTTE to release the Tamil civilians and even the UN appealed for the same, it was the LTTE and its foreign fronts who declared that the civilians were with them voluntarily. This alone takes away the rights of civilians if they are involved in hostilities and the UN Expert Panel too says that “Tamil tigers refused to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone”, “forcibly recruited members during the whole war, but this intensified during the final stages of the war. Some of the recruits were as young as 14”, “tigers forced civilians to dig trenches, risking making them look like combatants”.

Now this is the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts clearly revealing that Tamil civilians were engaged in hostilities, which makes us ask how many civilians were actually involved and how are soldiers to know to apply the principle of distinction in a situation where civilians are involved in terrorist activity, given that the LTTE chose to remove their uniforms and fight in civilian attire in the final stages.

It was as a civilian that an LTTE suicide bomber came to a makeshift refugee camp and blew herself up, killing scores of Tamil civilians inclusive of the female soldiers attached to the Sri Lanka Army who were providing medical assistance and food for these malnourished civilians whom the LTTE had not given to eat, despite the Sri Lankan Government never stopping the flow of food, medicines and even fuel to the North throughout the 30 years.

Much of the “accountability” rests on the question of Tamil civilian casualties. Sri Lanka cannot admit to death totals that Gordon Weiss, Frances Harrison, LTTE fronts, David Miliband, Siobhain McDonagh, Bruce Haigh, Navi Pillay et al have come up with without substantiating with facts as against the ground records and reports available corresponding with the UN Country Team’s observation.

If Sri Lanka is to be crucified simply because it is refusing to accept ghost numbers to satisfy an agenda - so be it, but we continue to say that Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces did not kill 40,000 or 125,000. Given that none of the deaths are being attributed to the LTTE, if governments are sincere, they should now turn their questions towards the LTTE front organisations who have been steering the LTTE killing machine from their Western confines and put them on the dock for a change. We can but wonder when the UN will have officials thinking in a balanced way as US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega or Australia Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison or UK’s Ian Paisely?

The double standards must stop.

- Shenali Waduge

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