|Failures of logic and intelligence and discrimination and memory in attacking Sri Lanka|
|Thursday, 04 December 2008|
As the armed forces move nearer to Kilinochchi, the defensive measures brought to bear against them get ever more intense. They also tend to lose sight of rationality. Thus, over the last few days there has been an extraordinary escalation of allegations about an incident that took place in the early hours of Saturday November 29th.
Raising the stakes
The Sri Lankan Air Force attacked a Training Camp in the Tiramanthakulam area at around 1 a.m. On that day, one TamilNet release announced that Kfir bombers attacked a refugee camp 'bordering Piramanthanaa'ru and Uzhavaoor (Tharmapuram)' and that three persons were killed and at least 18 wounded civilians were admitted to hospital following 'the indiscriminate bombardment on IDP settlement'.
On the 30th, the description had developed into the claim that the Air Force 'deployed Russian made OFAB-500 cluster bombs in their indiscriminate attack that killed three civilians, including a child, eyewitnesses told TamilNet's Vanni correspondent on Saturday'. By then, it was asserted that 'The OFAB-500 bomb is believed to have been cleared for carriage on MiG-21 'Fishbed', MiG-27 'Flogger' and MiG-29'.
By December 1st, TamilNet claims 'Three bombs exploded first time. Second time, when the bomber returned after 5 minutes from the opposite direction, there were 3 more blasts. But, the third time, bombs exploded with a parachute effect, like an auto explosion,' said the head of the camp of the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) that came under indiscriminate attack by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in the early hours of Saturday. Many children fled into the jungle during the five-minute window before the aircraft returned for the second attack. If not for the fast action of Ketheeswaran, the head of the settlement, and Pulendran, an intrepid IDP, in escorting and moving IDPs away from the refugee camp, the cluster bombs would have wrought havoc killing many, according to the refugees who escaped. TamilNet interviewed both Ketheeswaran and Pulendran, and several wounded civilians for this feature.'
Heroes and buzzwords
Having heroes who can identify a parachute like effect in darkest night is certainly a tremendous advance on the anonymous informants of previous days. In the first report, it is just unnamed medical authorities who are quoted as claiming that the episode was a 'terrible midnight aerial attack on refugee camp'. They are replaced the next day by unnamed eyewitnesses who could it seems identify OFAB cluster bombs, and discuss the capacities of MiGs - again Russian, obviously seen as an emotive buzzword, replacing the Ukranian Kfirs of the previous day. By the third day, details are thorough, three separate sorties, a five minute window to explain why casualties were so low despite cluster bombs being used, even a suggestion that the cluster bombs were an afterthought.
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretary General Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
Some of the pictures that accompany the TamilNet stories are horrifying, though most of those injured seem likely to recover soon. This does not mean that the Sri Lankan Air Force can be absolutely certain that there was no collateral damage. But, in a context in which generally planes carry only a couple of heavy bombs intended to do maximum damage to military targets, when there seems a desperate attempt to use as many buzzwords as possible (Russian equipment, cluster bombs, indiscriminate bombardment, indiscriminate attack, one of the deadliest, indiscriminate non-nuclear weapons on the planet, genocidal attack), one assumes a discriminating audience would realize that the reality is very different from what is projected.
Human Rights Watch as an auxiliary force
The multiple use of the word 'indiscriminate' brings to mind Human Rights Watch, which first apart from the LTTE propagated this canard. Sure enough, HRW, having launched its assaults on the Eastern Province last week, returned to the North, with another memorable fusillade, in which it demanded that 'The Sri Lankan government should stop playing games with aid organizations'. Evidently, HRW thinks that the agony Sri Lanka forces are going through, trying to breach the Great Wall of Kilinochchi that was so painstakingly built with equipment taken in by aid agencies, is a game. This may to HRW be lifesaving work, but others would recognize that it has caused death and destruction.
HRW's diagnosis of what had gone wrong with the Indian aid was mouthed also by its plant in Amnesty International, Sam Zarifi, who said in a blog after the same sort of assertion about the Government blocking humanitarian aid that the 'Indian government has promised food aid but it can't be distributed as the situation currently stands.' However, Zarifi ended his blog by saying that the 'Tamil Tigers must be shown that their objectives will not be met by using civilians as pawns in this way' and he did seem to grant that at least some of the Amnesty nonsense the previous week was wrong, when he noted that some of the IDPs were in 'schools and administrative buildings'.Zarifi, however, is even more illogical than most, because he claims that 'both sides believe they are close to getting what they want: the Government to achieving a significant military victory, so it is taking every measure to push the rebels back from their frontline, even though this means withholding vital aid from civilians. While the Tamil Tigers also believe they can only survive by using displaced people as a barrier against government forces. Both sides' actions are completely unacceptable.'
It is the Sri Lankan people who decide what is acceptable. Of course they must do this in terms of the constitution, but thankfully we now have a constitution that has gone beyond the majoritarianism we associated with the Westminster style government we inherited from the British. The British, it should be noted, had evolved systems to avoid majoritarianism, but the colonial monolithic approach we inherited towards the judiciary and judicial review, towards independent public institutions, was pervasive. All that has changed and we now have an active judiciary, and institutionalized power sharing. And throughout, except for the dark days after the referendum, we have maintained a democratic dispensation and accountable government.
It is now forgotten that it was precisely in the years after the referendum (celebrated it should be noted by those who now criticize a democratically elected government) that we had our worst period of governance. Remembering all that, we need to be very wary of those who try from outside to tell us what is acceptable, since what is acceptable to their agenda is not what will benefit the Sri Lankan people.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
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