|The last dance of the Tamil National Alliance|
|Thursday, 08 January 2009|
Predictably enough, the recent successes of the armed forces have led to a plethora of allegations about what are now described as their ‘war crimes’, according to a TamilNet headline. Most prominent, apart from old perennials like the Asian Human Rights Commission, is the Tamil National Alliance, which has now decided to jump on the genocide bandwagon that Bruce Fein has been paid to push.
Interestingly enough, TamilNet has now realized that its earlier claims against the Sri Lankan forces rang extremely hollow, since even their own allegations were few and far between, in the six months since the struggle to free the North began. Claims of indiscriminate slaughter for instance rang totally false when, in the whole of November, though the Air Force had engaged in forty bombing raids, even TamilNet – I use the term generically to cover all websites supportive of the LTTE or opposed to the government – could allege that there was only one incident in which there were civilian casualties.
Since that anomaly was pointed out, allegations about civilian casualties have come thick and fast, with the intensity that TamilNet attributes to Sri Lankan shells. And yet, going through the allegations made by TNA, it is quite obvious that the heightened rhetoric is not matched by precision or proportionality as to casualties.
TNA in describing what TamilNet termed ‘escalation in incidents where Sri Lanka Armed Forces have targeted Tamil civilian during festive days between Christmas and Thaipongal’, started with incidents on December 17th, 19th and 20th. Supposedly, two civilians were killed in the first of these incidents, which TamilNet had claimed were interpreted by civilians in Vanni as ‘indiscriminate attacks which were repeatedly carried out on displaced people’s settlements as collective punishments by the Sri Lankan forces that have suffered heavy casualties in the battlefront’. If the TNA really believes this story, that the collective punishment inflicted by Sri Lankan forces led to just two deaths, they would have no difficulty in identifying Mr. Prabhakaran as Father Christmas.
On the 20th, when the Air Force launched several raids on LTTE defences as well as sea tigers whose movements were detected in Kilaly lagoon, TamilNet claimed that the bombers dropped eight bombs on fishing huts and boats. There were no claims of civilian casualties, though TNA now claims that ‘thousands of recently displaced civilians had established temporary shelters’ in the area the Air Force attacked. This grandiose claim had not been made earlier by TamilNet, but TNA obviously felt that they needed to spice up the story.
In between, on the 19th, TNA claims that there were injuries to 11 civilians including six children because of air force raids, though these do not seem to have been noted at the time in TamilNet. Meanwhile the army is supposed to have fired shells on the Mullaitivu Hospital, injuring two members of staff and extensively damaging the hospital complex. Interestingly, TRO, the LTTE front rehabilitation agency, does not report any damage to this hospital in its November-December report, while of course it ignores the fact that all hospitals in these areas are maintained by the Sri Lankan government, which provides all medical supplies and pays all staff.
On Christmas Day, it is claimed by the TNA, it was the turn of the Kilinochchi Hospital, with the Army ‘targeting the Kilinochchi General Hospital causing damage to the hospital buildings and narrowly missing several hospital staff, including the Medical Superintendent of Kilinochchi.’ The original TamilNet complaint was clearer, saying that glass panes in three buildings were damaged, because ‘artillery shells landed within the compound of Kilinochchi General Hospital’. Incidentally, on both the 24th and the 26th TamilNet had claimed that the Air Force had killed herds of cows, in the first instance 85 of them, though the attack had been on a convent. On neither occasion were there any civilian casualties.
After Christmas, there are more claims of civilian casualties though, in the first four incidents described, in only two were there allegations of fatalities. In the fourth of these, in what it is suggested was a raid on hundreds of fleeing civilians, just two were injured ‘in the attack on the densely populated junction’, while three shops were destroyed and six damaged.
Then, on January 2nd, the day Kilinochchi was liberated, TNA records four incidents, on the same pattern as the four of the preceding period, two incidents of injury, one of a single death, and one of four deaths. This last incident occurred in connection, it is claimed, with an attack on a petrol station and a bus depot, institutions supplied and maintained by the government. The same applies to the ambulances which were proceeding to the hospital in government controlled territory, taking thirteen people, none of whom were injured, all of whom are doubtless being now looked after in Vavuniya by the Sri Lankan government. Only two people, who were accompanying the ‘convoy of ambulances’ were injured.
Finally, on January 3rd, when ‘shelling continued to target densely populated civilian area’ one civilian was wounded. And it is all this that the TNA claims is ‘part of a policy of Genocide that the Sri Lankan State has been carrying out against the Tamil people’.
With enemies like this, the Sri Lankan government may not need too many friends. Given the slaughter of the innocents taking place in other theatres of conflict, it is almost heartening that TNA should expend all its rhetoric to prove clearly that, far from targeting civilians, the Sri Lankan forces take more care about civilian lives than any other armed forces engaged in combating terror anywhere on the globe.
Of course, the death of any civilian is to be regretted, and the Sri Lankan government should redouble its efforts to ensure that our fellow citizens are kept safe. But this account of how careful we are also serves to suggest to those who still want to extend a lifeline to the LTTE that the best way they can serve the Tamil people is to urge the LTTE to surrender, to stop using civilians as shields, to let our fellow citizens escape into the bright future that awaits them when freed of the iron control of terror.
All the fellow travellers who swallow the LTTE rhetoric, who make pronouncements without looking at facts, who seem anxious to suggest that external intervention is needed to deal with a problem that does not exist, should also realize that they are adding to the suffering by letting the LTTE think that they will be thrown a lifeline if they continue intransigent. The world should unite now behind a democratically elected government that has dealt slowly but surely with terrorism more successfully than most – and should encourage its efforts to reach a political solution through discussions with those who have stood firm by democratic pluralistic values. The TNA may have thought, five years ago, that in support for terrorism lay its chance of having a say in a future dispensation. They must even now realize that such a course is as foolish as it is immoral.
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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