Monday, August 10, 2015

Opinion: The search for leadership in defending Tamil rights

by Gogol G.

The Presidential election of January 2015 has passed, and Mahinda Rajapakse and family were dethroned, nominally by Ranil Wickremasinge with the help of Maithripala Sirisena. But to no surprise of Tamils, nothing has changed in Tamils' day to day lives, nor the island-wide discourse of Tamil rights & grievances, nor has the political structure changed much. Mahinda Rajapakse, to his credit, not only has not gone away timidly, but has inserted himself front-and-center in the recent election-dominated politics of the SL Freedom Party. Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance has delivered precious little on their promises of Tamil rights and upliftment since their election. Why is there so much movement, staying in one place, with no progress? (Beyond the obvious, correct, fundamental reason: the political structure needs fundamental change.) Let's decode what is going on in Southern Lanka, and take a look at the dynamics among Tamils in the Northeast.


Southern Lankan politics


As many will point out, the US and India have been fighting over Sri Lanka ever since the pro-US JR Jeyawardene became prime minster and created the position of overly-powerful president and made himself the first one. When he committed the anti-Tamil pogrom (genocide) in July 1983 -- Black July -- this was Indira Gandhi's moment to train Tamils to become militants and destabilise the pro-American, anti-Indian government in India's close neighbour. India was (and still is) close to the Soviet Union (now Russia) during this Cold War period. So domestic politics became split in 2 parts along Cold War lines. The Marxist Communist JVP had a huge resurgence and attempted a rebellion that GoSL brutally put down with an all-out massacre. And there were even attempts to fit domestic politics into the narratives that veiled global geopolitical divisions, such as GoSL falsely accusing the LTTE of being Communist, mimicking how the South African Apartheid regime had curried favour with the US in their brutal suppression of Blacks and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress by stating that the ANC were Communists.

So when the US inserted itself back in the affairs of the island during the 2000 unilateral ceasefire by the LTTE (via Norway, which is American's "handmaiden", as Sivaram says) and the 2001 peace process between the LTTE and GoSL, this was not so much of a renewal of the US-India competition for SL since the US never left! The only thing different was that China became economically and politically powerful enough to assert its interests in SL from 2005 onwards.

(Side note: The history of the back-and-forth between US and India has seen both of these countries view the LTTE as an unnecessary variable and a hindrance to their 'great game' of geopolitics. But time and time again, India has suffered from its short-sighted enmity of Tamils and the LTTE, and as we will mention below, the US is equally complicit in short-sighted destruction of Tamil civilians and the LTTE. The predictions by Tamils in 2009, including by Neelan Thiruchelvam's widow, that the absence of the LTTE will make the ethnic divisions and the plight of Tamils worse, not better, have proven to be absolutely correct.)

The politics of Ceylon/Sri Lanka has been dominated by Singalese, due to sheer numbers and bolstered by a paranoid, racist superiority complex ("Mahavamsa Mindset"). Amongst the Singalese, there are 2 main parties that are usually tied in popularity. One way to interpret a polity defined by neck-and-neck competition between 2 main parties is as akin to American politics. In fact, the United National Party (the party of Jeyawardene and his nephew Ranil Wickremasinge) has styled itself as a cousin to the modern day Republican Party of the US. The UNP represents business elite, is pro-West/America, stokes communal racism (for political success by converting the working-class victims of their economics into supporters), and its symbol is the elephant. When Jeyawardene visited Ronald Reagan and brought along a gift of a real, live elephant, the purpose wasn't to help out an American zoo by giving over an animal. The political symbolism was deeper than the fact that the UNP and Republicans share the same animal as their symbol -- it was a large, implied statement that the UNP is just like the Republicans. But the US-SL polity comparison breaks down quickly when we look at the SLFP, which was literally founded on the racist Sinhala-only campaign pledge, and which has flirted with nationalising industries. This is quite a bit more socialist than even leftist European parties, let alone the Democrat Party in the US. And the SLFP has proven itself to be "stronger" (more racist) than the UNP for the last few decades, except during Jayawardene's time.

The other way we can interpret SL's polity is as a tussle between the world powers of US, India, and now, including China. The UNP has been pro-America/West for at least a generation, while the SLFP has been pro-India, and recently, also pro-China. And the history of these parties correlates well with the ebb and flow of the influence of their respective superpower nation backers, as well as the foreign coverage of events even in very recent times. Chandrika Kumaratunga, an SLFP member and former 2-time president, tried to blame the West for her predicament in the Tamil conflict, during which she got slammed in response, and Ranil W. was elected as prime minister within 3 months and led the 2001 peace process. Not happy with her diminished influence as the peace process progressed, CBK publicly called the Norwegian mediators "salmon-eating busybodies". We can even see evidence of the alignment in the way that various media, especially Western/American media, covered the January 2015 Presidential election. It was stylised as a regime change (sounds like Iraq War/Arab Spring rhetoric), but always in the same breath, it was mentioned as a success for democracy and good governance. It's as if America shot their wad (spent all of its money) on engineering the Sirisena revolt within the SLFP so as to bring Ranil back to power as they did in 2001, and after their pent-up fantasies of defeating Mahinda Rajapakse became real, they were glowing in the copious media coverage and shot their wad again. Even in the analysis in Western media of the Rajapakse resurgence and the upcoming 2015 parliamentary elections in 15 days, we can take an example and replace the myriad instances of the words of "democracy", "freedom", etc. with "West"/"America"/"not India, not China" and it would come across just as clearly.


So if we see the UNP and SLFP as representing the 2 sides of the long standing proxy struggle of the Cold War and its re-emerged form, what else can we infer? With Southern Lankan politics as a reflection of international politics as it is, the notion that Sri Lanka is sovereign and is too dignified to always oblige the wishes of foreign entities is patently baseless. It is laughable to read arguments that a bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka would "heavily damage the territorial integrity" of Sri Lanka.

To Rajapakse's credit, his 'bold' mix of shrewd strategy, dictatorial politics, extreme anti-Tamil racism, and shameless selling out to the highest-bidding country (China) has given him a legacy that is keeping him relevant. There are also hints and accusations that Chinese support is also keeping him around. What remains to be seen is how Rajapakse and the SLFP will do compared to Ranil and the UNP. But given that President Sirisena has committed himself to supporting Ranil's agenda since declaring his presidential candidacy, even if Rajapakse's party gets a plurality or even a majority of votes, Sirisena may utllise a technicality in reading the SL constitution that says that the President appoints the person whom he deems most fit to lead as the prime minister. But would the Singalese accept Ranil as the prime minster? If not Rajapakse, then whom would they accept? It will be interesting to see what happens and what the consequences are.

Tamil politics


This election cycle is seeing a little more diversity of parties in the Tamil political spectrum vying for the Tamil vote who are worth some consideration. The reason that the Tamil political scene is more interesting now is not because there is an increase in compelling ideas, but rather, that the Tamil National Alliance is running out of excuses and time-buying tactics that cover their complete lack of effort and results. The TNA is led by a coterie of very few individuals, including R. Sampanthan, and M.A. Sumanthiran, and a couple of others. Sumanthiran was appointed through Sampantha's influence as an (unelected) TNA MP through the "national list" mechanism in the SL election process. Sumanthiran quickly worked his way into a position of influence behind Sampanthan. The TNA leadership participates in secret meetings with international bodies, a fact that they brag about to Tamils and use to justify their worth. Some Tamils believe that the TNA leaders sometimes visit foreign governments to receive instructions on exactly what to do. Since 2010, the first elections after May 2009, the Tamil people have voted in large numbers for the TNA. The reasons for this voting is that Tamils no longer had their long-time vanguard of Tamil resistance, so the only leaders that Tamils were left with were the TNA. Furthermore, since the formation of the TNA in 2001, the TNA had accepted the LTTE as their sole representatives in their official election manifesto every time. The TNA served as the strongest link back to the Tigers to fill the void left in the hearts of Tamils by the absence of the LTTE.

The TNA leadership spent more than a year in 17 or so rounds of talks with GoSL on a political solution, to no avail. The TNA leadership kept insisting that Tamils should afford them patience and trust. During the 2013 Northern Provincial Council elections, the TNA election campaign was not garnering much support until the official party magazine ran an issue whose front cover had a picture of Prabakaran in military fatigues with a title with Tamil nationalist innuendo. Tamil nationalist innuendo is another trick of the TNA in order to flip-flop in the future, and the trick is being used for the current 2015 elections by the UNP candidates' Jaffna district leader. By the time of the 2013 elections, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam had created the Tamil Nationalist People's Front party since India had told him to leave the TNA because Gajendrakumar was too pro-Tamil, articulate, and vocal for India's liking. Gajendrakumar and the TNPF campaigned during 2013, but the TNA convinced Tamils to vote for the TNA exclusively by claiming that voting for TNPF would split the Tamil vote and diminish their numbers in the NPC elections. The symbolism of the TNA rout in the elections as an affirmation of Tamil nationalism was perceived strongly. And furthermore, most of the Jaffna newspapers, almost as if by coordination, did not publish any coverage of Gajendarkumar's electionneering. There are also reports that the TNA manipulated the NPC vote count so that Ananthy Sasitharan, the wife of Trincomalee area LTTE political leader who went missing, didn't come first in the vote count list. At this point, one individual (whom I will call "TNA Leader #1") began to relax more in his 2nd home in India that RAW must be keeping clean for him, while another individual (whom I will call "TNA Leader #2") began to take more control of the secret decision-making. TNA Leader #2 began making several promises that all were either ignored completely or were insincere.

TNA Leader #1's favourite diversionary tactic is to promise everything to everybody, but in private, and carefully, so that he can continue to lie to everyone and use technicalities and language/wording to justify previous deceit. For TNA Leader #1, the preferred tactic is to ask people to wait for just another year or two and he will deliver "a just political solution for all Tamils", because he and TNA Leader #2 "have contacts with powerful people in the International Community and foreign governments". In reality, TNA Leader #1 is in bed with India, and he has been for more at least more than a decade. It's not clear who TNA Leader #2 is working for, besides himself, but my best guess is that he has been picked by the US to represent their interests when the right time comes along. Until then, Tamil people are astute and can infer all of the above themselves, which means that TNA Leader #2's supreme arrogance and know-it-all attitude have rightly alienated him from the Tamil people, the people he ostensibly is representing. TNA Leader #2 is not even close to being a statesman, and even as a politician, he is doing a piss-poor job. He is someone who is not fully trustworthy. It is like dealing with Southern Lanka -- at your own risk, but you get what you pay for.

If the US were to support TNA Leader #2 now or in the future, they would risk the ire of the Tamil people. As Tamil and Tamils become a strong and critical part of the shifting landscape of the Indian Ocean, that would be yet another a short-sighted strategy play. There are other Tamil leaders who are capable of commanding the trust of the Tamil people now and over the long-term, and who can work for both Western liberal values and Tamil interests. It is no secret that Tamils have long ago lost faith in all of the world's major powers, including the international bodies that the West still bears a majority influence over, as exemplified by the comments of this Tamil's interview:
MCCARTHY: Anthony Quinn lost his home to the Sri Lankan army at age 17. He's now 45. He badly limps in injury from shelling during the long war that ended with the government forces crushing the separatist Tamil Tigers. Ever since the military seized his family's house near the airport of Jaffna, the provincial capital of the north where the fighting raged, Quinn has lived in assorted crude encampments - no privacy, no sanitation. In this one with its barking dogs and corrugated tin walls, he raised four children.

QUINN: And they're asking me, papa, why we are staying here? We don't have our own land. We don't have our own place. We don't have our own house. We hate that place. We hate it.

MCCARTHY: He hates the squalor he and 685 other families in his camp have endured since being displaced inside their own country.

QUINN: Shame on our politician. Shame on our country. Shame on the United Nation also.
India has invested in supporting the TNA because it ultimately takes direction from a fellow who is clearly in the pro-India camp, and India uses the TNA as a proxy for its own agenda, including blunting pro-Tamil sentiments. For the future of TNA Leader #2's political relevance, the writing is on the wall, and for the future of TNA Leader #1, well, the writing is in the actuarial tables.

During the 2015 election campaign, TNPF activists have been getting arrested by the police on false charges and released the same or next day, as a clear intimidation tactic. The police also filed a case against the TNPF recently in a similar vein. The TNPF is by far the strongest opposition to the TNA. Their pro-Tamil stance has been vindicated clearly, so the actors who stand to benefit most in hindering the TNPF are: TNA, Southern Lanka, and India. Coverage of TNPF on the most popular Tamil news websites is also conspicuously absent, while there is frequent coverage of the TNA. The same is still true of Jaffna-based Tamil-language newspapers. But these built-in pro-TNA biases are not enough to save the TNA entirely from their past promises and from their recent deceits coming to light.

Most recently, it came to light that the UN, through its NYC-based Under-Secretary General's office, had secretly worked on an agreement with the SL govt to make the process for investigating 2009 war crimes, which is expected to follow the September release of the OISL report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for HR, an entirely domestic process. Dubiously, the UN agreement with GoSL included the Northern Provincial Council, even though the plan was never shared with the NPC Chief Minister. Sources on the ground indicate that the real story of the agreement is that TNA Leader #2 had been secretly consulted by the UNP based government on a completely domestic mechanism for war crimes investigation and development funding disbursement. It would isolate Tamils from the international community and make them dependent on Colombo entirely. Because Colombo has been blocking reasonable efforts by the NPC to get funding for development projects and to demilitarise for the purposes of carrying out those projects, the NPC Chief Minister sought money from international institutions such that funding would come directly to the NPC without going through Colombo and its manipulations. Upon hearing this request, the Resident UN Coordinator for SL updated the secret UN plan to include the Northern Provincial Council. It would allow TNA Leader #2 to borrow the social credibility that the NPC and its Chief Minster C.V. Wigneswaran have built up, and when Tamils become unhappy once they know about the domestic process in the future, TNA Leader #2 could blame Wigneswaran. Because TNA Leader #2's secret domestic deal is an insult to Tamil people and would exacerbate the injustice they face, and that it goes against what Wigneswaran stands for, he publicly raised a red flag that he did not want to touch that plan with a 100 ft. pole. Meanwhile, because everything is in secret, TNA Leader #2 can get away with claiming that he has nothing to do with the plan. TNA Leader #2, if he were motivated enough, would even consider showing up to a meeting of NE Tamils agreeing that an international investigation of 2009 war crimes is essential just to be able to use that fact in his defense among Tamils in the future.

Many Tamils compare TNA Leader #2 to Amirthalingam, and the comparison is apt. Amirthalignam inherited the leadership of the TULF after Chelvanayagam passed away, and through strange electoral politics, the TULF became the opposition in parliament. Amirthalingam got caught up in playing politics instead of carrying out the TULF policy enshrined in its manifesto of the year before in rejecting the political structure of GoSL. Amirthalingam squandered a good opportunity in Tamil history to democratically assert Tamil grievances. The TNA leadership, too, has come through the backdoor to his position of influence -- they were the only group that had any claim to be recognised as leaders among Tamils. TNA Leader #2 continues to work solely within the boundaries set by his Colombo-based Singala politician friends through deals that he keeps secret from the Tamil people of the Northeast. The difference between Amirthalingam and TNA Leader #2 in squandering the Tamil political strength is that TNA Leader #2 is supremely arrogant about his ignorance, but Amirthalingam wasn't at all. Their fate in history will be similar, though -- a footnote reserved for people who weren't even good politicians, let alone true statesmen. TNA Leader #2 will be judged more harshly, as is fitting. It takes someone with a head as big as his to not be tired from the constant mental gymnastics he does.

A new development during this electoral cycle is the introduction of a party led by former Uthayan editor N. Vidhyatharan that is comprised entirely of former LTTE cadres, called Crusaders for Democracy. The more candid Tamil activists who have commented on this development have said that Vidhyatharan is naive and is being propped up by people working behind the scenes. Many have pointed out that Tamils are politically astute, and will not endorse this party even if they endorse the goals and dedication of the LTTE. Tamils have historically been able to separate electoral politics of people with LTTE affiliations from what the LTTE symbolise to the people. If and when this Crusaders for Democracy party gets soundly rejected by the Tamil voters, the party will receive the majority of its media attention as a sign that the Tamil people reject the LTTE. It is argued that this is the real reason that people are interested in propping up this party. Any party or organization whose name or motto contains the words "democracy", "good governance", etc., it is a good sign that such a party has strong backing from the US. It is very well possible that Crusaders for Democracy has Western backing. And if that were the case, it would backfire, since Tamils would recognize the duplicity and think even more negatively of the West and international institutions which continue to fail them and prop up the perpetrators of anti-Tamil genocide. After all, reports indicate that the US government was well aware of the intent to kill Tamil civilians wholesale much earlier than we thought, which means that whatever Robert O. Blake admitted to BBC Sinhala about his culpability is just scratching the surface. These injustices need to be redressed for true peace to prevail in the region.

If the US is behind Crusaders for Democracy, as well as the renaming of the UNP-led coalition from UNF to "UNF for Good Governance", it is an interesting attempt to introduce concepts to their respective vote bases that have fallen by the wayside. For Tamils, the LTTE was run undemocratically, albeit with a sense of progressiveness in the direction of Western liberalism, in a way, similar to the late Lee Kuan Yew. Meanwhile, Southern Lanka has a party with "good governance" in its name, and Southern Lanka, since its independence, has been an illiberal and backwards nation whose genocidal racism drive itself poorer, more violent, and more paranoid. Curing Southern Lanka of racism is a much harder task than convincing Tamils to vote (which they already do).

But I believe that the US ultimately can and will be a force for good in the region in the long run. The US will make win-win positive changes if, and only if, it sincerely addresses the Tamil national aspirations that is guaranteed within an appropriate political structure for the island. Until meaningful progress is made and conveyed, Tamil patience for poor leadership -- TNA or otherwise -- will rapidly dwindle, Tamil cynicism will reach new heights, and India will continue to be an obstacle on the road to progress.

Read more!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Review: Is India interested in regime change?

by Yatheenthira
Dec 25, 2014

After I already painted the picture regarding this same topic in a previous article, news reports have come out that ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party's ministers, Dilan Pereira and Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, declared that America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is conspiring to break up their own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). These same ministers said so at a press conference held at no less than the headquarters of the SLFP. People from the government's side continue to make the accusation that Western powers's scheming is at play behind-the-scenes of the break from the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition by SLFP Secretary General Maithiripala Sirisena. In general, whenever they mention Western powers, they are really talking about America! Now, the situation has changed to the point where these accusation are being made quite openly.

In the environment resulting from the conclusion of the war in Ceylon, it is America that has taken leadership of the international pressures places on Sri Lanka. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has launched investigations of Sri Lanka with the effect that the Mahinda Rajapakse-led government has been experiencing continual difficulties. The result of America's continued pressure is that the UNHRC is now at a point where it is to conduct its investigations of Sri Lanka. With such a backdrop as this, at a time when President Rajapakse is trying to run for president for a 3rd time, indeed unexpectedly, SLFP Secretary General Maithiripala Srisena -- who up until this point has been a strong supporter of Rajapakse's actions -- left the ruling UFPA coalition and threw his hat into the ring to contest against Mahinda Rajapakse.

In this situation, you can't easily say that the average Singala populace won't take to the accusations that America is behind this. When you ask the question, "Why couldn't it be America, who continues to bear down on Sri Lanka, be the one behind it all?" it appeals to the kind of citizen who has been won over by Sinhala nationalism. That is why antipathy towards America on the stages of campaign rallies may intensify in the upcoming days of the election campaign.

However, neither government members nor Southern Sinhala nationalist organisations have publicised any sort of accusation or doubt in relation to India. Notwithstanding all of that, as the Mahinda Rajapakse government is criticised for moving ever closer with China, India should indeed truly take great interest in regime change in SL. But it doesn't appear that India shows much inclination about the election. At the same, when talking to people who have taken part in Indian embassy meetings, it can be discerned that there is no strong belief that a regime change will take place. It can also be discerned that India does not believe that Mahinda Rajapakse's influence or support base has significantly diminished, unlike what his detractors say.

Here, another issue needs to be paid attention to. There are differing opinions about how the Modi-led Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) in India's Centre, from its perspective, will proceed to view a regime change. Based on a few pieces of information received, the BJP-led ruling policy-making elites don't have much enthusiasm for regime change. The reason being, currently, SL's defence institutions are strong. SL's intelligence apparatus is also strong. The reason for this the defence institutions currently in existence. But if a regime change happens suddenly, a sudden faltering in those institutions would also occur. Sri Lanka would be pushed suddenly into a lifeless state. Generally speaking, when a country's domestic security is in a lifeless state, many different forces will attempt to use that lifeless state advantageously. Global extremists are included in that bunch.

Given that news reports have already come out indicating that some Islamic extremist forces, which have put India under their crosshairs, are possibly using Ceylon as a staging ground, there is no way that BJP-led India is not paying attention to these issues. Already, people from Sri Lanka have been arrested in India. Therefore, India will definitely keep them in mind when it considers regime change. It will weigh out the pros and cons of regime change.

India doesn't care how Tamils perceive regime change. Tamils will understand regime change however they will. The understanding from the Tamil side may be things like it will facilitate democracy flourishing, or good governance will finally dawn. But India and America will only see issues from the perspective of their long-term interests. The Tamil national issue is a problem solely for Tamils, and it is not a problem for anyone else. Only when the day comes when Tamils realise this that there will be a change in the ground situation. India is continuing to observe the situation.

But another issue can be observed here. The Govt of SL continues to accuse America. But Ranil Wickremasinghe, leader of the opposition United National Party, speaks publicly in strident opposition to China. Ranil has boldly stated that as soon as he comes to office, he will shut down China's projects. Ranil said this in a meeting with the leaders of the tourist souvenir industry. He also said then that once the current government is defeated, as soon as the new regime comes to power, the Colombo city harbour project being carried out with Chinese backing will be completely dismantled.

In the backdrop of SL accusing America, Ranil speaking out specifically against China in a way that would warm American hearts only serves in the end to strengthen the SL government's accusations. While on the one hand, the upcoming election is one for the people of Sri Lanka, the election has also become one for powerful forces of America, India, and China. And India is clearly in the picture, here.

Read more!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Sri Lanka: Picturing Genocide and War Crimes

Sri Lanka: Picturing Genocide and War Crimes

by Dr. Parasaran Rangarajan, 'International Law Journal of London,' August 27, 2014
Sri Lanka may have given evidence against itself in the larger context of the “genocide” of Tamils in 2009, a widely accepted phrase in the legal community for what happened when the Sri Lankan Armed Forces bombed a “No Fire Zone” killing up to 75,000 Tamil civilians including children, women, and the elderly in just 3 months according to United Nations (U.N.) reports[1].


They say a picture speaks a thousand words and in this case, it is true as the Office Of The High Commissioner For Human Rights (OHCHR) at the United Nations is conducting a probe. This is a photo, courtesy of the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry[2] as stated in the picture, which clearly proves several war crimes and the intent or mens rea for genocide.

Realising that the “red” on the map is Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) held areas, we ask a very simple question; where has the government of Sri Lanka put its “No Fire Zone” for Tamil civilians? It seems it is right in the middle of the LTTE held area.

The logical question would be why didn’t the government of Sri Lanka put its “No Fire Zone” in the south where Tamil civilians would be safer as it has a responsibility to protect civilians during war?

Ask a child where a government should place a safe zone for civilians; in the middle of the war area or somewhere far from it? Now, what can government of Sri Lankan officials respond when that question is answered? There can only be one answer to this and that answer is clear intention to kill these civilians. United Nations officials from the Nobel Peace Prize nominated documentary “Sri Lanka Killing Fields” stated the same.

There was a complete disregard for human life in this case and at the very least, these were “crimes against humanity” but “genocide” would be the better term as there were pre-calculated efforts to create a “No Fire Zone” in the middle of an LTTE war zone which contradicts each other. Here, we have the intent to destroy this area which gives us the intent to destroy an ethnic or national population; Tamils.

It is very clear from the images that the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence has provided us that these areas would be destroyed as the 55th Division came in from the north near Palamattalam, 53rd Division on the A35 Highway, 58th Division on the left of the A35 Highway along with Task Force 8 on the right, and the 59th Division from the south after crossing Mullaitivi.

This was a complete “encirclement” of a civilian zone which is in breach of Article 17 of the “4th Geneva Conventions Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War”[3] as there is a duty to evacuate when such a situation occurs. This is also a violation of responsibility to evacuate civilians under Article 29 of the “4th Geneva Conventions Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War” which places responsibility on a state actor to do so for “protected persons” which include non-nationals of Sri Lanka such as any United Nations official or other foreign nationals who were still in the area capturing these horrific crimes.




Other than the fact that the government of Sri Lanka intentionally bombed the “No Fire Zones” consisting of Tamil civilians proving the mens rea for genocide, we have another war crime committed by the government of Sri Lanka; failure to provide air-raid shelters when aircrafts are being used. In an article detailing the actions of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, it stated;


“Last Tuesday morning the LTTE had been transporting a 130mm artillery gun in the general area northeast of Puthukkudiyiruppu. An Air Force UAV that had been conducting aerial surveillance over Puthukkudiyiruppu outside the civilian no fire zone had first spotted this and had sent the images to its command centre. Based on the intelligence received, Israeli built K-fir jets attached to the 10th air force squadron were scrambled. Having observed the target the jets had taken a precision strike resulting in both the vehicle and the artillery gun being destroyed.”

Here, the government of Sri Lanka has used aerial vehicles in its war against the LTTE. When it UAV’s and Israeli K-fir jets are being used, the government has a duty to provide air-raid shelters in the “No Fire Zones” which were not given. This is in violation of Article 88 of the “4th Geneva Conventions Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War”. In addition, there were many reports that the Sri Lankan Air Force were bombing the LTTE previously so there certainly should have been the appropriate cover given to civilians. Failure to do so constitutes a war crime.

Going back to the choice of location of the “No Fire Zone”, the very fact that the government of Sri Lanka placed the so called “No Fire Zones” in LTTE held areas when they were on an all out offensive against the LTTE proves that there was intent to bomb the entire area including the “No Fire Zones” which the government intentionally moved civilians into – pre-meditated genocide.

Additionally; reports surfaced everyday that thousands of civilians had died forms the knowledge of “murder” of civilians occurring, which is a “crime against humanity” under Article 7 of the Rome Statute[4]. Proceeding to bomb with this knowledge anyway which constitutes intent for “genocide” under customary international law recognising the dictums and opinions of the International Criminal Tribunal For The Former Yugoslavia (ICTfY) and International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR).

Previously, I had written an article for the South Asian Analysis Group titled “Sri Lanka: Was It A Genocide” [5] where I cited the United Nations Panel of Expert Reports (POE) of 2011 [6] in defining “extermination” as genocide as the report on pages 68-69 stated:


“The credible allegations support the finding of the crime against humanity in so far as the conditions imposed on civilians in the final months in the NFZ’s (No Fire Zones) were calculated to bring about the destruction of a significant part of the civilian population.”

This is word for word match with the definition of genocide given to us by Article 2 (c) of the “1948 Convention On The Prevention And Punishment Of The Crime Of Genocide” [7], Article 6 of the Rome Statute, and customary international law.

In addition, pages 47-48 of the report stated that the Sri Lankan Army executed LTTE combatants who were waving white flags signaling surrender and also used chemical bomb munitions or white phosphorus against the civilians in the “No Fire Zones”:


“There are allegations that the SLA (Sri Lankan Army) used cluster bomb munitions or white phosphorous or other chemical agents against civilian, particulary around the PTK and NFZ’s (No Fire Zones). Accounts refer to large explosions, followed by smaller explosions consistent with the sound of a cluster bomb. Some wounds in the various hospitals are alleged to have been caused by cluster munitions and white phosphorous.”

The execution of surrendered combatants is in violation of Article 47 of the 4th Geneva Conventions and Article 23 (c) of the 1907 Hague Conventions [8] as an attack against “persons ad-hors”​ is prohibited as war crimes. The use of chemical weapons such as cluster munitions or white phosphorous has long been banned by the “United Nations Convention Against Chemical Weapons (CWC)” [9] and Article 8 as well as Article X of the “1925 Geneva Protocol For Prohibition of Use in War of Asphyxiation, Poisons, or Other Gases, and Of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare”[10].

In a very simple comparison, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTfY) found that the act of Serbian General Radko Mladic overrunning a U.N. “Safe-Area” and executing at least 7,500 Bosniak men and boys who were sheltering with Dutch peacekeeping troops was legally “genocide”.

Many eminent political figures including the former United Nations Assistant-Secretary among other judges of the Dublin Tribunal, former Financial and External Affairs Minister of India Shri. Yashwant Sinha, the Attorney General and Minister for Human Rights of Mauritius Jaya Valayden, the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius Rama Sithenen, former Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi, former Attorney General of the U.S. Ramsey Clark, former European Union (E.U.) Parliament Member Robert Evans, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and U.S. Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan Richard S. Williamson have agreed that this was a genocide.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and U.S. Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan Richard S. Williamson also stated that the Eelam Tamils should be granted “remedial sovereignty” just as Kosovo was in her report regarding the Responsibility To Protect (R2P) Doctrine which Professor Richard Falk, former United Nations Special Rapporteur For Palestine, along with the current United Nations Secretary-General had stated the United Nations failed to uphold when it came to Sri Lanka in an earlier interview published in the first volume of the ​International Law Journal of London.

These facts cannot be overlooked or avoided as the United Nations investigates Sri Lanka for violations of international law as from simple pictures, we form the mens rea for genocide and prove the commission of several war crimes; the failure to evacuate civilians when an area is encircled as per Article 17 of the “4th Geneva Conventions Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War” and failure to provide air-raid shelters when aircrafts were being used in war which is in violation of Article 88 of the same convention.

In addition, when there are violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) such as the 4th Geneva Conventions, under Article 29, the government of the entire member-State, not just the individuals must be held accountable so it is more than clear that the State of Sri Lanka is guilty of war crimes including genocide.

In summary, the following war crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of international law have occurred:

- Failure to provide air-raid shelters in violation of Article 88 of the “4th Geneva Convention Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War”.

- Failure to evacuate civilians when surrounded by troops in violation of Article 17 of the “4th Geneva Convention Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War”.

- Failure to protect civilians in general in violation of Article 29 of the “4th Geneva Convention Relative To The Protection Of Civilians During Time Of War”.

- Violation of Article 2 (c) of the “1948 Geneva Convention On The Prevention And Punishment Of The Crime Of Genocide” proved from the “2011 United Nations Panel of Expert Report On Accountability In Sri Lanka”.

- Violation of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

- Violation of Article 23 (c) of the 1907 Hague Convention as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) combatants with a white flag were killed according to the “2011 United Nations Panel of Expert Report On Accountability In Sri Lanka” known as the “White Flag Event”.

- Violation of the “United Nations Convention Against Chemical Weapons (CWC)” as chemical weapons and white phosphorous was used against civilians according to the “2011 United Nations Panel of Expert Report On Accountability In Sri Lanka”.

- Violation of the Article X and Article 8 of “1925 Geneva Protocol For Prohibition of Use in War of Asphyxiation, Poisons, or Other Gases, and Of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare” based on the report stating chemical weapons and white phosphorous was used against civilians.

- Violation of customary international law and international humanitarian law (IHL) citing dictums and legal opinions of judges from the International Criminal Tribunal For The Former Yugoslavia (ICTfY).

References:

1. The U.N. Versus Sri Lanka, 2013 The Wall Street J., Mar. 23, 2013 at (2013), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304636404577297220014224602

2. Asif Fuard, Tigers Caught in a Noose, 2009 The Sunday Times, Apr. 5, 2009 at (2009), http://sundaytimes.lk/090405/News/sundaytimesnews_19.html .

3. Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949., Int’l Committee of Red Cross , http://www.icrc.org/ihl/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5

4. Rome Statute, 2002 Int’l Crim. Ct. (2002), http://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/ea9aeff7-5752-4f84-be94-0a655eb30e16/0/rome_statute_english.pdf

​5. Dr. Parasaran Rangarajan, Sri Lanka: Was It a Genocide?, 2014 S. Asia Analysis Group, July 21, 2014 at (2014), http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/node/1571#_ftn17.

6. United Nations, Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Expert on Accountability in Sri Lanka (2011), http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf.

7. United Nations, 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) [hereinafter Genocide Convention], https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-I-1021-English.pdf.

8. International Committee Of Red Cross, 1907 Hague Conventions (1907), http://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/195.

9. Organsation For The Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons, United Nations Convention Against Chemical Weapons, http://www.opcw.org/chemical-weapons-convention/articles/.

​10. International Committee Of Red Cross, 1925 Geneva Protocol for Prohibition of Use in War of Asphyxiation, Poisons, or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, http://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/280?OpenDocument.

Photo credits

1. Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence – Indiramurthy Jayasuriya. No Fire Zone. The Sunday Times. Web.

2. United Nations. Craters Of “No Fire Zones”. UNITAR/UNOSAT. Web

Read more!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Review: Part 2: Remember to Remember: LTTE Calculus

Part 1: 5 yrs on. Remember to Remember

Part 2: Remember to Remember. LTTE Calculus

Sivaram was worried that the Eelam struggle was increasingly becoming a test bed to try out different Counter Insurgency (COIN) campaigns. He started discussing this with friends and was hinting at it in his writings. RAND publications, now released in public domain, bear witness to his worries. Many of the RAND’s National Defense Research Institute papers are sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Below are few examples of recent research releases where LTTE was used as case study.

“Characterizing and Exploring the Implications of Maritime Irregular Warfare”,

“Subversion and Insurgency. RAND Counterinsurgency Study. Paper 2”

and “Understanding Proto-Insurgencies. RAND Counterinsurgency Study. Paper 3”

Furthermore, right after the ceasefire, Sivaram was openly skeptical about the peace process and started warning about the “Peace trap”. LTTE became concerned about Sivaram’s position and invited him to Vanni. Sivaram visited the LTTE heartland for the first time in 2003 ( Unsure about the exact time) and met with the LTTE leadership. He was engaged by LTTE on their strategy at some considerable depth during that meeting.

This had an impact on Sivaram and his writings afterwards. LTTE’s strategy lead him to coin the term Counter - Counter Insurgency or as he called it CCI.

He, later, became frustrated again that the LTTE was not “educating the people about the truth”.

By 2000, LTTE realized it had achieved the necessary level of strategic parity through military means. Any further military expansion towards Jaffna risked a direct intervention by India. And further advances would have been hampered by the threat to its rear supply line in Vanni. All heavy war material needed to be brought in from Vanni, a required element to sustain any large scale incursions into Jaffna. LTTE would have incurred heavy casualties. Not to mention the Tamil civilian casualties in the peninsula. This strategic pause also paid off when Sri Lanka launched the Agni Kela offensive in Apr and failed. Sri Lankan military literally threw everything it had into that battle. At this juncture of parity, and with the airport attack in July, Sri Lankan state was left with limited options but to pursue peace.

The objectives of the American DoD review, and the LTTE’s offer of peace coincided in 2001, resulting in the peace process.

LTTE was aware of the peace trap yet it was still adamant about staying in the process.

LTTE’s immediate and short term goal was to consolidate and preserve the strategic parity it gained. LTTE calculated to exit the peace process at an appropriate time with that parity recognized as inevitable, and as the “new normal”. It was worried that Sivaram’s public position about the “peace trap” would create doubts in peoples mind.

Pre-Peace Process


LTTE invested heavily in the people of Vanni. It was creating a lasting Vanni mindset: A mindset that is intimately tied to the LTTE’s state building project. As Sivaram was learning, LTTE made that investment as an antidote to counter insurgency tactics as well as a long term strategic springboard. At that time, many of the counterinsurgency tactics of the government was starting to work in the East and in the Jaffna peninsula. Tamils in those areas were starting to be conditioned to accept the state violence and the loss of dignity. They were afraid to loose that “normalcy” . Normalcy for them was lack of mass violence in the form of indiscriminate shelling and air raids. But constant military presence, disappearances, targeted killings, no freedom of movement, were rationalized as tolerable by them. And the state crimes were dismissed as only happened to those who did not know how to “stay out of trouble”. This was an erosion of their will to resist and the desired outcome of a counterinsurgency campaign.

In the Vanni, through the unceasing waves, LTTE created areas of full control. And invested heavily in projects of statebuilding that gave people a sense of dignity, safety, limited freedom of movement. Before that meeting, Sivaram saw those projects as waste of precious resources during the time of war. He was of the opinion that, as a direct consequence of state building, LTTE focused too much on expanding conventional capabilities and on protecting territory at the expense of its guerrilla roots. But the witnessing of statebuilding exercise has left an everlasting impression on the Vanni people as well as on the visiting diaspora. That investment paid off in the form of willing participation and in unflinching loyalty to the LTTE even in the dying days.

LTTE built on that during the peace process as a counter to any moves to weaken the bond between the people and the organization. It became the lived experience of people of Vanni and the diaspora. It must be mentioned that it is because of that Vanni mindset, that the Vanni survivors were made to suffer in the concentration camps post war. It was a pre-planned counterinsurgency exercise to dehumanize them. To make them forget the good days of the Vanni life. Even Though Sivaram did not live to witness the outcome of the LTTE’s Vanni mindset project, he understood the ramifications of it in 2003.



During Peace Process


LTTE devised several other strategies during the peace process to ensure Sri Lankan state and its backers did not drive a wedge between them and the people using the peace process. As part of the counterinsurgency campaign, practitioners plan out the twin approaches of “legitimacy building” of their side and of “de-legitimizing” of their opponents. This delegitimacy campaign is targeted at different types of audience. In the case of LTTE, it was primarily aimed at the Tamil people in the island and abroad. LTTE was already handicapped by the terrorist label. As mentioned in part 1 about the Aug 2002 visit of Deputy Secretary Armitage (who held one of the key leadership role in the US DoD review) the following wiki leaks info sheds some light into what was happening. key word emphasis is mine



“The Deputy Secretary.. noted that the US
bureaucracy has moved very quickly in response to GSL
requests for assistance in the areas of intelligence,
security, trade, investment, and aid… He
noted that the intelligence team (septel) and a team from the
Peace Corps are in the country. He stressed that the
US could not serve as an “honest broker” between the GSL and
the terrorist LTTE (as some people wanted),..”


Deputy Sec. Armitage was very direct with the Tamil clergy and others when they met him in Jaffna. he made it clear which side the US backed in the peace process. It was the reality but it was also an intended message to undermine the legitimacy of the LTTE in the eyes of the people.

TNA was formed in Oct 2001 in a pre emptive move to consolidate the Tamil political space. Primarily to deny any opportunities to delegitimize the LTTE.

LTTE also organized a series of Ponguthamil events to keep the people highly mobilized and motivated. This mobilization was a key to consolidate the support even in the peninsula where LTTE had very limited presence before the peace process. Sri Lankan state later targeted and killed many of those involved in organizing the Pongu Thamil events.

LTTE also saw the calls for democratization in the form of multi party campaigns through a counterinsurgency lens and resisted those suggestions.

As mentioned in part 1, the US DoD looked at “under governed areas with in states” as a security risk while LTTE was bent on consolidating the Vanni under its control.

It should be noted, many of LTTE’s actions for parity ( thus legitimacy) were bitterly opposed by the Sri Lankan state and were also tactically supported by its backers. And according to Dr. Sandra Destradi’s research, this is was one of the primary reason for the failure of the peace process since it took away the incentive for LTTE to continue negotiating. Few actions of the delegitimacy campaigns are worth highlighting.

1) Holding of the Donor meeting in DC knowing LTTE can not attend

2) Denial of visits to the Vanni areas to Koffi Annan and to President Clinton after the tsunami

3) Abrogation of PTOMS

4) Framing the LTTE taxation as extortion or as ransom. (Many Tamils fell victims to this campaign).

There are also accusations that few of the current TNA leaders were undermining the LTTE’s strategy to prevent delegitimacy campaigns. They are accused of telling the foreign delegations in private meetings that LTTE should not be given the political legitimacy as it is a military organization. And it should be the preserve of the TNA.

In anticipation of international pressure tactics on its associates ( As India did with the deportation orders of Anton Balasingam and Nadesan Satyendra in the 80’s ) and to prevent infiltrations, LTTE re organized its international operations. Many long time associates, including KP, were deliberately sidelined. And its international coordination was moved to and controlled from the Vanni. It was both a tactical necessity and as well as a strategic move that further reinforced the centrality of Vanni, forcing dignitaries to make the trek to the Vanni.

Sivaram also learned about two of LTTE’s secretive divisions. One was the “Defense Planning and Military Science Division” under Sasi master and the other was the “Strategic Planning Division” under the coordination of Mano master who previously was the head of “Military Training school”.

Again, reverting to part 1, where the US DoD saw the “adoption of asymmetric approaches “ as a challenge to be dealt with in the new century, LTTE doubled downed on its black tigers as the “asymmetric deterrence” against any possible foreign intervention. Sivaram wrote an article in May 2004 under the heading “LTTE develops asymmetric deterrence to stall foreign intervention” .

LTTE considered its reaction to the Indian intervention in 87 a tactical failure. While LTTE knew ( Purportedly through its close friendship with the TN chief Minister MGR )

of the plans for Indian intervention in 1986 , it thought it had pre empted it by banning TELO. It did not have a tactical plan in place for such an eventuality. Sasi master was tasked with such strategic scenario planning. Accordingly Sivaram, LTTE had tactical plans in place to handle limited foreign intervention as well as for a possible rebellion in the east.

As Katunayake Airport attack demonstrated and later the Anuradhapura air force camp attack reinforced, LTTE had elevated the suicide attacks to full unit level deployments which was never done before. LTTE saw that as a core part of their strategic deterrence

And by the end of 2005, while trying to prevent de legitimization, and while developing a deterrence, LTTE also sought to undermine the “legitimacy building” of the UNP government. Under the cover of international safety net, Ranil’s government was endowed with enough legitimacy. There were open warning from the US leaders ( Nicholas Burns, Ashley Willis, etc)to the LTTE about the cost of resuming the war. So when LTTE “engineered” the defeat of the Ranil, and by letting a “Hawk” win the election, it reduced the “legitimacy” argument. Today, that regime is accused of Genocide, War crimes, and Crimes against humanity. The international players are unable to openly endorse the conduct of the war. Had Ranil won the election in 2005, the war still would have resumed. The outcome may still have been the same. But the conduct of the war and the narrative may have been different.



Next: Post peace process. Was Genocide anticipated ?

Read more!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

News: Sri Lanka | After the War

Sri Lanka | After the War
by Anuk Arudpragasam
1 May 2014


Driving north along Sri Lanka’s newly relaid A9 highway last August, our van came upon an immaculately green lawn that stood out in a landscape of desolate scrubland. We were just outside the town of Kilinochchi, the former stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and stopped to take a look. A broad tiled path cut through the middle of the grass, and crouched on either side of it were three politely smiling government soldiers, using scissors to snip, one by one, every stalk that had grown too tall or unkempt. The path led up five short steps to a platform, and surging up from it was a huge, perfectly rectangular slab of concrete. Embedded near its centre was a larger-than-life brass bullet, polished to a golden shimmer, from which several deep fractures radiated outwards. The deepest of these rose all the way to the upper edge of the slab, and from it burst an enormous brass lotus frozen in the act of unfolding, glimmering in the vast, cloudless sky. This monument was constructed shortly after the government’s decisive victory over the Tigers, who for twenty-six years waged a bitter civil war for a separate Tamil homeland. From the ruins of war, the monument seemed to declare to the island’s historically Tamil north and east, the flower of peace was at last blooming.

Early the next morning, having driven east from Kilinochchi for several hours over narrow, rutted dirt roads, we came to the quiet village of Mullivaikal, right on Sri Lanka’s north-eastern coast. The final battle of the war was fought here in May 2009, and the site has attained mythical stature among the country’s Tamils. More than three hundred thousand Tamil civilians were trapped in a small area around this village for five months as the Tigers made their last, desperate stand against the Sri Lankan army. Most had been displaced from their homes by a steady army advance that began in early 2008, and forced to retreat eastwards with the rebels. In Mullivaikal, exhausted, wounded, with little food or water and nowhere left to go, they dug hundreds of bunkers for shelter against the army’s indiscriminate shelling. According to a UN report, which the Sri Lankan government aggressively disputes, as many as forty thousand civilians died in the war’s last days.

That number would have been far higher had not a small number of dedicated Tamil doctors and nurses stayed behind instead of crossing over to the safety of government lines. In the last days they ran a makeshift clinic out of Mullivaikal’s abandoned primary school, saving hundreds of lives without proper instruments or anaesthetics. Four years on, there was hardly any sign left of those events at the school. The classrooms had been repaired, the school reopened. It was the middle of school holidays, but uniformed students were setting up chairs and sweeping out classrooms, and several teachers were preparing cauldrons of rice and curry for lunch. The hustle and bustle was in preparation for the opening of the school’s new library building. There were several visitors from outside the village too—educators, donors and well-wishers who had contributed to the project. Despite the flurry of movement all around, they spoke in whispers and walked with light steps, out of respect for all that happened here during the war.

Listening to the various speeches in front of the main school building, I noticed a large mango tree that had somehow survived the violence. Suspended by a hefty piece of rope from its thickest branch was a large, hollow, bullet-shaped object. Its chipped exterior had been painted green and yellow, but its inner surface was rusting. It was the exoskeleton of a shell, I discovered afterwards from one of the teachers, found in the school grounds by students. It was used now as the school’s bell, rung at the beginning and end of lessons, a monument to the recent past very different from the one built by the government outside Kilinochchi. For the children of Mullivaikal, every hour of primary education is punctuated by its gong, a reminder of what happened in the place they come to be educated for life in their new nation.

I had been taken to the opening ceremony by Dr S Sivathas, who had helped raise funds for the library. Of the sixty-seven consultant psychiatrists serving Sri Lanka’s population of twenty million, Sivathas is the only one currently working full-time in the former rebel territories. For most of the war he lived in the relative safety of the country’s capital, Colombo, but he had himself transferred to the government hospital in the large northern town of Vavuniya the day after the government declared victory. For the last five years Sivathas has confronted a daunting task: to address the massive amount of personal and communal trauma that accumulated in the Sri Lanka’s north and east over twenty-six years of war, and especially in the two final, brutal years of fighting. His first major undertaking was to train a cadre of sixty community support officers and twenty facilitators, most of them young people who had themselves been trapped in Mullivaikal. Today, they run weekly workshops and counselling sessions in their respective villages, and form the backbone of Sivathas’ programme of long-term support for traumatised populations. Sivathas still spends weekends in Colombo with his family, but during the week he travels across the north and east with gruelling dedication, moving by bus, van, bike and foot to small towns and villages, where he oversees the work of this cadre and deals with cases they are unable to address.

On the evening of my first day with the doctor, I spoke at length with Sivakumar, a community support officer from the town of Mallavi, who appeared at least a decade older than his thirty-seven years. Sivakumar described the terror of the final stages of the war with an unsettling earnestness. In the months of continuous displacement during the retreat, the barrages of shelling never stopped for more than a few hours, he told me. “As we moved from one place to another we saw bodies and body parts scattered across roads and open spaces like grains of rice. You could hear the wailing of people grieving for their dead everywhere.” When the fighting was finally over, those who survived were interned for months in government camps, where, many of them allege, torture and rape by the military were widespread. It was well over a year before most of them were released, to return to what was left of their homes. “Even now I can’t get a good night’s sleep,” Sivakumar said. “The memories come into my head, and I’m afraid to close my eyes.”

We slept that night at the home of Saro, one of Sivathas’ facilitators in the village of Keridamadu, a few hours west of Mullivaikal. Drinking tea on the portico the next morning as we waited for a Ministry of Health van to take us to our next destination, we watched a young woman in her mid twenties walk into the garden through the gate in the thatched fence. She was well dressed, wearing a loose brown shalwar kameez with a red thread tied around her upper arm to signify she was fasting. Seeing us she smiled, hesitated, then acceded to Sivathas’ invitation to sit down.

It was impossible to tell from her appearance or comportment, but Rani lost her mother, father, brother and sister-in-law during the last months of the war. The night before, Saro, her cousin, had told Sivathas about Rani’s surprisingly complete recovery from these losses, and had asked her to come over that morning at his suggestion. Between sips of tea, Sivathas began, very conversationally, asking Rani about her morning routine, her part-time work, and the situation at home with her husband and children. Rani deflected these questions with quiet giggles, embarrassed to be asked about herself so explicitly. Sivathas persevered. “Saro told me about what happened to you during the war,” he said. “About how you returned to ordinary life and your duties with such ease, as if by magic. As a psychiatrist I’m curious about how you did it, whether you’re very religious, whether praying helped you, or whether you’re just a resilient person.” Rani’s large eyes smiled at the doctor’s frankness, as if to say she didn’t think there was anything to be surprised about at all. It wasn’t hard to believe that all was indeed well with her, that she had truly managed to come to terms with everything that had happened.

As the doctor gently probed into the recent past, though, asking carefully about those in her family who passed away, about how her life was different from before, Rani became agitated. She angled her face down, and her eyes welled up with tears. Drawing her chair back without a sound, she stood up and went inside to join Saro in the kitchen. Half an hour later, when she stopped by the portico again on her way out, she looked as she had when she arrived, bright-eyed and confident. In her expression there was an acknowledgment of the brief rupture in her calm that the three of us had witnessed, but also a firm indication that it wouldn’t be allowed to resurface.

The directness and informality of Sivathas’ style is sharply at odds with that of other medical professionals in Sri Lanka, where doctors are used to an almost headmasterly respect from their patients. He keeps his interactions with his patients continuous with everyday life, and often ignores social and professional norms that come in the way of his work. This is not, to be sure, simply a product of the doctor’s own temperament. Sivathas’ intimacy with his counsellors, his lack of stiffness, and his unabashed readiness to impose himself upon the lives of others, are marks of how far removed his work is from the context of ordinary medicine. When each and every individual in a place has been affected by trauma, it becomes part of the community itself, a normal, everyday phenomena. Sivathas’ response to these conditions has been to make the therapeutic stance a part of his ordinary comportment, so that the eliciting, soothing and suggesting that exist for so many psychiatrists only in rigidly demarcated contexts have become for him a part of almost every interaction.

Two days later, I sat in on a weekly workshop for elderly, mostly widowed women at a community centre in the village of Malayalapuram, just south of Kilinochchi. Sivathas playfully bantered with the women as they trickled in, before gently asking them to join the circle and talk about how they were doing. There was no definite starting point to the session, no sudden switch from ordinary conversation to formal therapy, but the discussion turned gradually to questions of livelihood, routine and depression.

When the meeting was over, I followed the doctor and a young community support officer out into the bright, oppressive heat. We were going to the home of one of the participants, a strikingly gaunt woman in her early sixties, with eyes like basins filled to the verge of spilling. She had been unable to stop crying for the duration of the meeting, and talking to Sivathas as she walked her words were still dissolved in tears. She kept repeating the same few lines about her situation, following a logic of her own rather than responding to anything the doctor said. The support officer looked at me with an almost apologetic smile. “She lost eight members of her family in the last week of the war,” she explained. “Both her sons, their wives, and three grandchildren.”

We walked along a dirt path with thatched palm-leaf fences on both sides, and entered the woman’s partly withered, partly overgrown garden. The doctor did his best to persuade the woman to begin taking antidepressants—it was the only time in the week I spent with Sivathas that I heard him talk about medication. The woman responded with indignation. “I don’t want to change how I feel,” she said again and again. “It’s only right that this is my state after all this has happened to my family.” I wondered whether the woman might not be right, then turned to find the support officer chuckling silently beside me, not maliciously but with a mixture of sympathy and impatience. Leaning over, she whispered that the woman hadn’t stopped talking about her troubles for four years, though everyone else in the village had suffered too. “Imagine what it must be like for her son’s child to live in a home like this,” she said, motioning to a shirtless girl of about nine or ten on the portico.

The support officer, I found out later from Sivathas, is twenty years old. The Tigers conscripted her elder brother when fighting with the army resumed late in 2007. After the war, she searched everywhere for him, unsuccessfully. Unable to give him up for dead, she suffered from a debilitating depression until she started working for the doctor, after which her condition slowly improved. Talking to people regularly about their situations, according to Sivathas, has helped many of his support officers and facilitators cope with their own grief.

Freud suggested in his essay ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ that the basic function of mourning is to allow the bereaved to dwell on their attachment to the lost object, thereby gradually and painfully detaching themselves from something they have built their lives around, and clearing space inside themselves for a future without it. Traditional mourning rituals for the forty thousand who died during the last stages of the war, however, were usually out of the question. Death could come anywhere, at any time. Those who were killed usually had to be left behind, and searching for the remains of loved ones during lulls in the fighting and shelling often yielded only body parts or disfigured corpses, not the whole bodies required for proper rites. Many simply could not tell what happened to their friends and relatives, and even today cannot acknowledge that those missing are probably dead.

The impossibility of mourning individuals has been compounded by an inability to mourn the collective past. In the months following the end of the war, the Sri Lankan government systematically erased all vestiges of the Tigers in the north and east, including several large cemeteries for dead fighters. Attempts at grieving publicly by Tamil civil society in the last few years have also been disrupted, with organisers and participants taken in for questioning and often detained. These policies are not surprising, in a way. The act of mourning in this context is, in the government’s reckoning, necessarily political: to mourn a civilian killed in the war’s final days is to criticise the army’s use of indiscriminate shelling, just as to mourn the past is to endorse the separatist goals of the Tigers. The government’s efforts at stifling mourning are an extension of its wartime policy of total destruction. The psychological effects this has had, however, are immense. When an entire population is prevented from mourning, according to the doctor, a sharp disjunction inevitably forms in people’s minds between the past and present. It was his duty, Sivathas told me on our last day together, to reunify the minds of all these people, so that they may return to ordinary life as much as is possible.


Anuk Arudpragasam is a writer from Colombo, Sri Lanka. At present he is writing a doctorate in philosophy at Columbia University in New York, USA, and finishing a novel set during the last days of Sri Lanka’s civil war.


Read more!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: 5 yrs On: Remember to Remember

Taken from "5 yrs On: Remember to Remember" on Finding Self, by Eelapalan

5 Yrs On.


Global Tamils are remembering the 5th anniversary of the May 2009. While we mourn the lives lost, we should also remember to remember the truth. The Tamilnation website quoted the following prophetically and purposefully, when it shut itself down.

"…A key psychology for leading (is to).. retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be… Create a culture.. for the truth to be heard.

Among our losses were also two ablest strategic platforms. One was Sivaram AKA Taraki, and the other was the Tamilnation website.

I was hoping all along that there will be others stepping up to fill the vacuum left by these outlets: A new crop of people and platforms to stir the intellectual curiosity of the Tamil nation. 5 yrs on, we are still searching. Future will judge us harshly, if we ,the witnesses, victims, and survivors, don’t leave behind our thoughts in any shape or form.

5 yrs on, I hope we can travel to the past with hindsight as a guide. Not to set a revisionist narrative but to unearth the truth. The Tamil nation needs to understand its place in the “great game” that is underway in the Indian Ocean. In this write up, at at first, a look at the American strategic objective in Sri Lanka, and then what the LTTE calculus was leading up to the ceasefire and after, and then to see if the Tamil nation can benefit by a US presence in the region.

The Long American Pivot towards Asia


The diplomat recently published an article validating what I meant several weeks ago about Sivaram seeing around the corners. At the time of his kidnapping and killing, Sivaram was working on an article that Tamilnet later published. Sivaram, as often was the case, read the tea leaves correctly. In that write up, he tried to explain the US’s strategic interest in Sri Lanka. He focused primarily on the USA looking at basing prospects for its Air Force and for signal intelligence. Note his uncanny insight into the NSA operations in Colombo at that time: Long before the current scandal. His video interview below also touches on the same topics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LPhun5awoo

The diplomat article, published 9 yrs after Sivaram’s analysis, outlines the U.S. strategic objective under the title “bases for Americas Asia Pacific Rebalance”. It was written by two professors of strategic leadership at the naval War college.

In 2001, the US Secretary of Defense started a strategic review of the US global defense posture. The defense department termed it the “most profound re-ordering of U.S, Military forces overseas”. The review was underway prior to 2001 but came into the limelight in 2001. And portions of it were made public to the Congress in 2004.

The new forward posture for the Asia Pacific rebalance, outlined by the review, was characteristically different. It was refined for the 21st century challenges. The basing network envisioned were not the “fight in place” and defensive in nature. That was the case in West Europe and in northeast Asia since WWII and Cold war. The new posture called for strategies to enable rapid deployments in short notice. In essence, “from static defenses to frequent expeditionary operations”.

Further more, the review outlined a wider range of challenges for the new century that it seeked to address. Among them were:

“· The nexus among terrorism, state sponsors of terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;

· Ungoverned states and under-governed areas within states, which can serve as both a breeding ground and a sanctuary for terrorists and other transnational threats; and

· Potential adversaries’ adoption of asymmetric approaches – including irregular

warfare, weapons of mass destruction, and advanced, disruptive, technological challenges – designed to counter U.S. conventional military superiority. “

To be specific, the last 2 challenges listed above ( key word emphasis is mine), made the American anti - LTTE policy framework much more overt. It provided an opportunity to support the Sri Lanka’s “ international safety-net” approach. A post 9/11 media and policy narrative provided the needed cover. And momentum for the collaboration between Sri Lanka and the US reached new heights.

A USA & UNP Strategic alignment


The 2001 (July) attack on the Katunayake airport precipitated an acute crisis for Sri Lanka. The LTTE military success in the North and the economic pressure in the South ( due to the attack) left the Sri Lankan state with very limited options. A RAND report written in 2004, titled “Urban Battle Fields of South Asia”, highlighted the severity. According to the report “..International airlines pulled out of Colombo and as tour group operators left Sri Lanka. Christmas booking were cancelled, which levied a heavy loss upon Colombo’s coffers. The insurance premiums applied to planes and ships operating in Sri Lanka were inflated to $100,000 per vessel per port call, as Sri Lanka was considered a “war zone.”. Consequently, imports became sparse and prices increased dramatically.” “ The sharp increase in oil prices was sufficiently steep that the government could not maintain its subsidy. Second, the rupee came under pressure and the government allowed it to float, after which the value of the currency exchange rate sank from Rs 78 to Rs 100 per dollar within three days.” Consequently, this made the ceasefire and international involvement an urgent matter to Sri Lanka. With changes in the political landscape, elections were called just after a year and Ranil was brought to be the PM in Dec 2001. He reciprocated the LTTE ceasefire and ceasefire came into existence in Feb 2002. Sri Lankan Prime Minister made the visit to Washington DC in July and Deputy Secretary Armitage made his first visit to Sri Lanka in August 2002.

The core leadership team that was part of the American DOD review included Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage. Under Secretary Douglas Feith represented the Defense Department. But It is noteworthy that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, James Clad, who called Gotabaya his friend, played a role in the last stages of the war, along with his state department colleague Robert Blake. It is noteworthy that Clad’s eventual replacement, Vikram J Singh, was a longtime Sri Lanka strategist in the US defense circles. He lived and worked there. But after being appointed in 2012, he made several trips to Sri Lanka in his official capacity and regularly met with wide range of leaders. It is important to note that he led the US defense department’s post 2014 strategy for South Asia before leaving the post.

A US de-mining team was already at work in the North when Deputy Secretary Armitage made his first visit. But Several US department of defense teams had visited Sri Lanka to do multiple evaluation studies starting from the late 90’s.

According to Sivaram, “The USAF, DIA team that visited Palaly, China Bay, Sigiriya, Koggala and Kuda Oya in 2001 did a brief update regarding Sri Lanka… A classified version of this update on Sri Lanka was given to the Sri Lanka Air Force and Army headquarters and DMI for comments. It was basically about improving Palaly, China Bay and advantage of building new international dual-purpose airfield in Kuda Oya. If the update is read together with the RAND report it gives a clear picture of US strategic aims in developing Palaly, Trinco, Kuda Oya.”

In 2012, Sri Lanka rejected an India’s offer to develop the Palaly airport.

The executional aspects of the US defense review was to seek legal agreements with identified host countries. Agreements lay the legal foundation and secure the logistical and support assets for forward forces. Sri Lanka likely was identified as such a host country even before the review and long before the 2002 ceasefire. America signed the Acquisition and the Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with Sri Lanka in Feb 2007. According to Wiki leaks, the signing was deliberately kept quite. And America has since then accelerated such agreements with other South Asian countries as well. Eelam Tamils need to be aware that ACSA is up for renewal in 2017 and the concessions the US will likely to extract out of Sri Lanka. The UN report finding person’s responsible for war crimes and a possible sanctions on the individuals and the regime will likely converge on this timeline.

Sri Lanka offers ideal locations for the new kind of basing that the US seeks. The one the diplomat article now calls. “.. “forward operating sites” that are normally maintained by a relatively small U.S. support presence and are used for temporary deployments or training purposes; an example is the Sembawang port facility in Singapore. Finally, “cooperative security locations” are austere facilities shared by the United States and host countries that may have little or no permanent U.S. presence and are designed essentially for contingency use.

Clearly, the preferred option for the future is the latter two categories. They are less expensive, less visible, less vulnerable, and offer greater strategic and operational flexibility; just as important, they are less likely to create political problems for the host government and in fact serve to promote bilateral security cooperation. “ . These operating sites can also emphasize “.. new capabilities such as remotely piloted drones and special operations forces, and one extending to parts of the world not previously active theaters of American military operations.”

Eelam Tamils mistakenly believe that an American military presence, if one were to be established, will be a large foot print base. Trinco harbor comes up right away in any conversations. As we will see later, LTTE also feared an intervention. But the American presence will be characteristically different. In the island, it will start out as a “cooperative security location” and then could progress to a “forward operating site” with an unnoticeable footprint. With the ACSA in place, Sri Lanka is already a “cooperative security location”. American military was already helping to rebuild schools even in the occupied areas of the island. And the training programs have not stopped. Sri Lanka is obliged under the “Bilateral agreement for the exchange of logistics support, supplies, & services (LSSS) during exercises, training, or emergency situations”

In the Tamil analyst circles, The Tamilnation website and Sivaram were the only sources, that I am aware of, who understood and articulated the impact of the new uni polar direction of the US strategic initiatives in the region. The American strategic objective in Sri Lanka is dualistic in nature. While seeking operating sites, it also seeks to deter any A2/AD ( Anti -Access/ Access Denial ) attempts by other powers. And Sivaram was the first to pick upon and highlight the concept of A2/AD . He highlighted that part of the American objective in (South) Asia is “To prevent the United States from being denied economic, political and military access to an important part of the globe. • “.

As I wrote before, the Chinese orbit of influence on Sri Lanka only matters in the context of A2/AD. In that, China can convince the Sri Lankan state to avoid ( or delay ) leaning towards the US. Or alternatively make the US pay a higher price for the access in the form of opportunity cost. Despite popular belief, China has no chance of a direct military presence in Sri Lanka the way India or US can muster.

The US has maintained its leverage on Sri Lanka before the 2002 ceasefire, during the ceasefire and since the end of the war. And America will continue to do so until its objectives are achieved. The UN resolutions are a clear demonstration of it. Assistant Secretary Biswal reminded everyone last month. Speaking about the “U.S. Foreign Policy in South Asia: A Vision for Prosperity and Security” at the Harvard University, she said “We look forward to a resumption of a more comprehensive military relationship once the Government of Sri Lanka has made better progress toward reconciliation and accountability.”

The American strategic calculus at play before and during the peace talks was either the coercion of the LTTE into an agreement in favor of a unitary Sri Lankan state or the containment of LTTE as a small guerrilla force. Either of these would have lead to the eventual withering away of the LTTE. The expectation was, at the end, it would pay dividends for basing through a west friendly, and popular, Ranil government. So LTTE’s contribution to the election defeat of Ranil government would have ruffled a lot of feathers in those planning circles.

Next : LTTE’s calculus. Sivaram’s meeting with the tiger leadership and the exchanges that left him immensely impressed. What were the little known divisions under Mano and Sasi masters of LTTE planning for?

Read more!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Has the Sri Lankan Issue Left India's Orbit?

by Yatheenthira

In the backdrop of the success of the America-supported resolution regarding Sri Lanka through support of 23 countries, an opinion has arisen. There are opinions like that coming out from within the Tamil National Alliance as well as outside of it. The gist of those opinions is that the Sri Lankan issue has left the reach of India.

India, which has given its support to the previous American-led resolutions, avoided voting during the most recent resolution. But, India's following actions did not affect the success of the resolution in any way whatsoever. America got that resolution to pass without India's support at all. Based on this idea alone, some form the opinion that all issues have left the reach of India.

A few days ago, a senior media friend contacted me and asked: "Issues have moved past India. So why does the TNA leadership need to be clinging onto India? You've been saying such things like, 'Up until now, India has occupied an unavoidable position in South Asian issues, even history can't deny that and march on.' But now all that has been proven a lie! America went above India and had brought that resolution. What important position can possibly India hold from here on out? After this, why should they be dragged along with India?" I understood that he was asking me these questions in light of my recently published opinions on India. Is this perspective actually correct? Have issues actually moved beyond India's reach?

If you look at the surface, you will see the appearance that issues are out of India's reach. But that is not true. Like I said in my last post, India's decision to abstain from voting was made entirely based on its long-term interests. India's class of foreign policy makers may have taken this decision with 2 ideas in mind. One, to eliminate the growing influence of China in Ceylon. In order to eliminate it so, it is essential to remain neutral. Two, the future consequences that would result, as the regional superpower, due to expressing support to an international investigation of Sri Lanka by the UN Human Rights Council. That is to say, giving support to an international investigation within the borders of South Asia would open up the possibility for the demand of such investigations of India. Another country could ask for an investigation of India on the basis of the international rules that are purported to transcend countries' long-term interests. India could have had these two ideas in mind. Because for America, which continues to bring pressures in the Sri Lankan issue, you can't guess its long-term interests. So it's not hard to understand that as a regional superpower, India would be making its decisions with its long-term interests in mind.

India needs to be understood against this backdrop accordingly. Based on this one single event, a diminished view India's importance will not be a correct perspective. Currently, India is the only country that has the capability to guide the course of the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils. It is with this in mind that the TNA leadership has been maintaining patience with India. The TNA leadership is well aware of the long-term consequences of betraying India. For this reason, Sampanthan is maintaining patience without betraying India. But not everyone in the TNA has such patience.

Those who argue that issues are beyond India's influence contort their arguments to include the South Africa issue as proof of their argument. As they believe, if South Africa becomes involved in reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka, then through that India's importance will further dwindle. But South Africa also did not vote in favour of the America-led resolution. It also abstained from voting, like India. Both GoSL and the TNA have expressed interest recently in including South Africa in reconciliation initiatives in Ceylon. At the same time that a few criticisms have come out about this, in reality, enough information has not come out about what exactly South Africa's role is. The TNA continues to handle this issue in a closed-room setting.


As some say, would South Africa's intervention weaken India's importance? One issue needs to be understood clearly regarding India. India will not intervene in any issue that doesn't make it feel uneasy about is regional interests. Definitely India's regional importance is not challenged in any way by South Africa's intervention. So India will not bother one bit about it. Any country will weigh its interests before getting involved in foreign affairs. When weighing the circumstances thusly, India's support will always be indispensable. No one who gets involved in Ceylon will do so by sidelining or creating enmity with India. There is no need to do so, either.


Therefore, India always has a reluctance in getting involving in the Sri Lankan issue. This is a political reality. If the Tamil side thinks that it shall operate by casting this reality aside, the effects be very far-reaching. As far as the people in the Tamil National Alliance are concerned, there are two groups. One, people who have continued to nurture close relations with India since the beginning. Two, people who are oppositional to India. If we look at the people who positionally oppose India, most of them learned politics during the time when the Tigers determined Tamil politics. In the classes of the Tigers' political colleges, positions that were in opposition to India were always imparted. Whenever such people get any such opportunity, they always take such opportunity to bring attention to the characterisation of India as the enemy of the Tamil people.


In actuality, India is neither the Tamil people's friend, nor enemy. Rather, it is the only country that has the power to exercise the right to involve itself in the affairs of Tamil people. Because India directly neighbours Ceylon, it is a country that cannot be avoided by Tamils at any time. Therefore, just by looking at the single issue of the America-led resolution at the UNHRC alone, it is completely incorrect to estimate that India has lost its relevance.

Read more!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Making Sense of India's Foreign Policy

by Yatheenthira

In the last post, I explained how the change in government in India is not going to cause any surprising changes in India's foreign policy. Towards further understanding that, this post will look at India's foreign policy.

Even the political groups which have experience in operating under the banner of "Tamil Nationalism" for more than 60 years have a paucity of mind when it comes to understanding India's foreign policy. A few days ago, the TNA released statements regarding the foreign policy position that India had taken, and this clearly put their impoverished understanding on display. The same India that supported and voted for the America-led resolutions on Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013, during the 2014 resolution, decided to not vote on it. That is to say, India took a no-support, no-opposition stance. Many Tamil political activists, including those who up until that point had been praising India, were dissatisfied with India's recent stance. Some released statements to the effect that India has greatly betrayed Tamils. One such person is the Manner Bishop Fr. Rayappu Joseph. If there were more clarity in nations' foreign policy, there would not have been a need to be so upset.

India's dual behaviours don't make sense -- taking pleasure in supporting one issue, and then later getting angry when it opposes or abstains from another issue out of its foreign policy interests. But I believe that TNA's leader R. Sampanthan's publicly stated a measured perspective on India's stance. In his interview to the the Sunday Thinakkural, he shared those views. That is, Sampanthan stated his opinion to the effect that even if India's decision has disappointed the Tamil people, you can still view it as one that is favourable to the Tamil people. Here, there is one issue that needs to be noted firmly and clearly. That is, neither India's voting in favour of the previous 2 resolutions, nor the abstaining from the most recent resolution, were never taken based on the interests of the Tamils living in the NorthEast. Those were decisions taken entirely from India's national interests. A nation's foreign policy decisions are always taken out of that nation's interests. This is the basis of foreign policy. So why is it that those who are called Tamil nationalists never understand this for a second? They don't understand, or they understand but pretend they don't?

A nation's foreign policy is something determined by 3 issues. 1) That nation's "people" (identity, values, expectations, and skills). 2) That nation's history (context, opportunities, and previous, shared crises). 3) That nation's geography (location, resources, and neighbours). The planning of strong nations' foreign policy is determined on the basis of the above 3 issues. If we look at India's foreign policy on this basis, then the confusions in the Tamil sphere will disappear.

India, which freed itself from British colonialism, has a foreign policy that we can separate into "before the Cold War" and "after the Cold War". In the bi-polar world order following World War 2, India maintained a foreign policy approach to strengthen itself by joining the Soviet camp. India intervened directly in Sri Lanka during the period when India had joined the Soviet camp. Even if this intervention is superficially seen as an issue done with respect to the rights of Eelam Tamils, the truth is completely the opposite. India's direct intervention happened as a result of the geopolitical contradictions of the day. India's goal was both to teach a lesson to Sri Lanka, which had started to depart from India's sphere of influence, and also to send a warning to the other countries within this sphere of influence. The Cold War environment of the day was satisfactorily good for this. But once the Soviet camp fell in 1991, India completely changed its foreign policy approach that it had maintained up until then. After the fall of the Soviet camp, India decided on an approach of joining the camp of the Western, sole superpower America's power bloc in order to establish itself.

In this backdrop, India adopted the "Look East" strategy. The 4 Asian countries which had joined with American and were described as Tigers - Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea - projected superb growth, and India projected its "Look East" policy. In this context, India is seen as the next fastest continuously-growing country in Asia after China and Japan. When seen in this light, India will make its foreign policy decisions while keeping the many, spreading problems in mind. When making foreign policy decisions, each and every country will announce its decisions with their immediate and long-term impacts in mind. As far as India is concerned, it will make decisions by maintaining a tight hold on Sri Lanka and measuring the kind of effects that could happen from its foreign policy approach. If India continues to be stern towards Sri Lanka, it will lead to a situation where China is the only option in front of Colombo. India can take decisions, as a country immediately neighbouring Sri Lanka, so that its hold does not weaken a the country in its immediate vicinity. The decision that India has currently made should be viewed on this basis.

For those who lament India’s abstention of support, they are making the mistake of thinking that it is because of India’s support that the 2 resolutions brought by America have successfully passed. Up to a certain point, India has brought on and established American pressure, and then it has shirked that responsibility. If India had remained neutral in the previous resolutions, America would be able to have been continually bringing up this issue. The people who are kicking themselves because they say that India pulled the rug out from underneath them need to answer a question — in what manner has India’s distancing actually affected Tamils in that manner? Perhaps, if India had voted in favour, there would have been 24 countries instead of 23 countries voting in favour. Are there any people out there who could list all the wonders that would happen to the lives of Tamils through that difference?

This is why, instead of looking here at the issues emotionally, it is essential that we look at them logically. As a result of its noncommittal stance, India has incurred great vulnerability in emphasising the issues of Tamils to Colombo. Particularly, India has become much more likely than before to stress a few suggestions regarding fully implementing the 13th Amendment. Therefore, we should think about how Tamils should use this new opportunity beneficially. It has been clearly pointed out in the most recent UN resolution that the current Northern Provincial Council is being administered under the 13th Amendement. Therefore, in this juncture, India can be asked to provide help for the smooth functioning of the NPC. The NPC elections were brought about because of the continuous pressure exerted by India.

Even if you can't ascertain what kind of promises Colombo gave to India nor which of those Colombo has implemented, and despite the extreme opposition to the 13th Amendment that has stirred up in Southern Lanka, the government has not resorted to getting rid of it. It was India itself that put a stop to it. Secondly, it is because of India's pressuring that the elections for the NPC were held under that amendment that the NPC is under the control of the TNA. Why shouldn't Tamils consider that these two things, which happened due to India, have provided benefits? There is another argument here. Some people continue to release their opinions that India is using the 13th Amendment to limit Tamils' aspirations. This writer does not have the ability to clash against the kind of magicians who pick up their wand and promise to conjure up heaven. There is nothing to say except that the believers of those people ought to be pitied.

Tamils have gained two important truths that have emerged from India's decision. One, Tamil Nadu has not been able to influence India's foreign policy whatsoever. Two, India's foreign policy is not under the control of Indian politicians. It is entirely under the control of Indian officers. While the Indian foreign policy inner circle is based in Delhi, it operates out of 3 bases -- the Prime Minister's office, the National Security Council that is operates under power national defense advisors, the Foreign Ministry. But politicians have no influence at all in these. Perhaps, if there were a situation where politicians could exert influence in Indian foreign policy, the ruling-party Congress would not have decided to maintain neutrality regarding Sri Lanka in the UN HRC while Indian federal election campaigning is going on. But, that's not what happened. Rather, the decision was made out of Indian interests, and will be made that way in the future. It would be a good thing for the sake of Tamils if those calling themselves Tamil nationalists understand this clearly.

Read more!