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Killings and gross violations of rights abuses further divide ethnic groups

"Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the government is targeting innocents. Tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed. Tens of thousands of people were tortured either in public or private. Properties of tens of thousands of people were looted. Thousands of women were made widows while thousands of children were left orphaned." Image: LTTE have been launching frequent attacks in the southern part of Sri Lanka. Last week, gunmen ambushed a bus, killing 27 people in Buttala.

By Satheesan Kumaaran

(January 23, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Killings and gross violations of human rights abuses should not be used as the last resort in any wars around the world. But cruel fact is that this is absolutely true in the case of Sri Lanka where both parties resort to killings and human rights violations and blame each other for the escalation of rights abuses and killings of each other’s members. Regardless of who is doing it, all these actions will add further fuel to the already burning issue.

Killings and gross rights abuses around the world

Politics is the art of getting things done, but politicians often use their influence to target innocents for their own gains. Even sometimes they make innocent people victims of their ruthless games only to serve their own interest. This is indeed true in Europe and other parts of the world. Western countries are now appealing to the developing and under-developed countries to respect the fundamental rights of their diverse communities although some western countries are found to not respect their own Aboriginal groups.

Many aboriginals around the world still struggle politically to get their right place in their respective countries -- the countries that occupied the lands of the Aboriginals and rejected their rights to their indigenous practices, such as fishing and hunting. Many Aboriginal groups, especially in the Americas, Australasia and Europe have not achieved government recognition of their fundamental rights. These groups have been alienated by their respective governments and are still isolated when the colonizers entertain all the privileges in the lands once controlled by the people (Aboriginals).

As it is a contemporary, let’s go back to the history of Europe and look at how brutal they were over their battles for power. Although Europe is a small region in the vast Asian continent, it contributed enough to post-colonial era conflicts around the world. Millions of people were killed and millions of people fell victim to rights abuses regularly within Europe during and before the end of World War II, which includes the era of Romans when they introduced Christianity forcefully.

After the collapse of the League of Nations, the United Nations was created to embrace the countries around the world and now has 192 members. The League of Nations’ lifespan was cut short because it failed to stop wars between states. However, the UN played a significant role in bringing the wars between the states to an end. It also played crucial role in de-colonizing the countries colonized by Europeans. As a result, the countries once either administered or colonized by the Europeans or U.S. went into the hands of the majority population of the respective colonized countries. However, the UN failed to stop wars taking place between nations. Another milestone of the UN was its agencies working on the ground throughout the world to help people suffering from natural or man-made disasters. This created some sense of togetherness among the world’s nations.

The countries in Asia and Africa spend much of their time and energy with the procurements of arms to wage wars within their own countries while their populations starve to death, and their hopes have been wiped out by the warmongers. The international organization has not taken concrete steps to stop the civil wars by recognizing the grievances of the nations who fight for self-determination. The UN should not act as a puppet for the powerful countries, which contribute greater financial contribution for the survival of the UN.

Europeans have tirelessly condemned the atrocities committed by either state players or rebel groups. Neither the UN nor the western countries have done very much to improve humanity despite the fact that they enjoy great influence over many developing or under-developed countries fighting each other for nationhood. The Europeans were not aware of the consequences created by colonialism. They did not worry about the communities living in the colonized countries rather they created a monopoly business deal with the governments of the developing or under-developed nations and their resources to benefit Europeans in the post-colonial era.

This is part of the agreement they made when they left the countries they controlled. The Europeans transferred the power to the hands of the majorities. Although it is a fundamental principle of democracy that the majority should embrace the minorities, it is rare to see it in entirely in many countries. This is because the majority feels that they will lose their grip of control of the nations if they grant equal opportunities to the minorities. This is true in the case of Sri Lanka.

Why majority feels sense of ‘fear’ in Sri Lanka?

It is a known fact that the Sinhalese, especially the Buddhist clergies and the political elite, feel that they would lose their power if they granted equal opportunities for the Tamil-speaking Hindus, Muslims and Christians. This is absolutely a myth created by these powerful groups. This hypothesis has no valid supporting evidence. But, they claim that if they grant equal opportunities to minorities in politics, economy and education, the minorities will do well and one day push the majority Sinhalese into the Indian Ocean and, since they do not have any other countries for the Sinhalese in the world, they would have no choice but to die in the Indian Ocean. They espouse that the Tamils would do it with the support of the 70 million Tamils living in India. They further say that there are millions of Tamils spread out across the globe.

This sense of “fear” should not be there because fear and anxiety will always lead to violence by the majority against the minorities in defense. This is very much a result of the instinctual fight or flight response in humans. The question, then, is why the Sinhalese need to fear this. The Tamils and the Sinhalese have lived together brotherly for centuries and without any of these factors. This myth has only come up in the post-colonial era. So, what is the reason behind this fear? The answer is nothing but something created by the power-hungry politicians and influential people in the Sinhala community. This sense of fear created by these forces is so deeply rooted that it led to the divisions among the ethnic groups on the island.

Granting autonomy for the Tamils

Granting autonomy for the Tamils is the only way out of the national question of Sri Lanka. It is feasible only if the Sinhala general public wake up. But, the powerful elites will not grant autonomy because these groups want to maintain their oppression over the Tamils. These powerful and decision-making people live inside a glass house and send their children abroad for better education when the poor struggle everyday just to survive barely. The country’s economy is going in a negative direction following the wars between the Tamils and Sinhalese.

Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the government is targeting innocents. Tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed. Tens of thousands of people were tortured either in public or private. Properties of tens of thousands of people were looted. Thousands of women were made widows while thousands of children were left orphaned. The Sri Lankan government acknowledged recently that 28 per cent of the women in Sri Lanka are widowed due to war. All this adds fuel to the already divided communities in Sri Lanka. The government itself is creating more fighters. The ground reality is that the Tamil parents send their children to the LTTE voluntarily because they feel that the children will be safe in the LTTE armed forces. If they did not join, their children would fall in the hands of the predators, the Sri Lankan government armed forces. They feel that it is better do and die than to fall into the hands of their enemies who would torture them indiscriminately. Rights abuses are on the rise in Sri Lanka, although the government will not reveal the details of the abuses committed by the armed forces.

However, it is known that the armed forces target all age groups and genders whether they are 85 years old or 15 years old, old women or young girls. Many security officials of the Sri Lankan government take the Tamils in their jeeps to collect ransoms from the relatives of the Tamils to get the release of their relatives. Some officials acknowledge that they need to do it; otherwise, they could not make a decent living because Tamils living in Colombo and its suburbs live in the money from their relatives living in western countries. This is a really pathetic situation for the already victimized ethnic Tamils. The only way Tamils will live in freedom is if they obtain freedom from Sri Lanka. This is not the personal opinion of this writer, but the perceptions of majority Tamils around the world.

Killings and tortures are not the solution

One should remember that killings and torture are not the solution to the national question. To find a permanent solution, it is important to embrace all sectors of society and thereby creating mutual understanding that can only result in the Tamil’s trust in the Sri Lankan state. If not, it is obvious that Tamils will go farther and farther.

The killings of LTTE leaders or civilians or politicians should not be the last resort. But, one should not rule out the fact that there are many state and non-state players in Sri Lanka who have the power to kill because they possess arms with the support of the government. One cannot put the blame on either the Sri Lankan government or the LTTE because there are many other non-state players who always aspire to create tensions on the island because they live in it. They always want the conflict go further because that would make their needs viable. Their funders would not support them if there was no real need for them.

The non-state actors run brothels openly in the Sri Lankan capital and its suburbs with the support of the influential people in the government. They kidnap the children and push them into prostitution. Child prostitution is a major issue in Sri Lanka, although some would argue otherwise. Children and adults who stay in lodges in the south are kidnapped, their specific whereabouts unknown, and are forced into prostitution with no communication permitted outside of the brothels. No social movements have seemed take serious notice and action on this simply because many children and adults being kidnapped and sold into prostitution are Tamils.
The killing of LTTE senior persons, like intelligence wing senior cadre Charles, S. P. Thamilselvan, and Sri Lankan parliamentarians, like Maheswaran and Dasanayaka, is not the solution to the national question of Sri Lanka. The parties in conflict should remember that to find a lasting peaceful solution it is fundamental that they sit at the negotiating table rather than using their guns to kill or torture both members of the warring parties and innocent people. Further killings and gross rights abuses will deepen the conflict. The international community, especially the powerful western countries led by the UN as a world organization, rather than simply issuing condemnation statements, should intervene directly to protect the Tamil-speaking Hindus, Muslims and Christians, and poor Sinhalese. This will help restore Sri Lanka economically, and Sri Lankans can aspire to build their state as one of the wealthiest countries in the world as it was once declared by other civilizations as a paradise and Pearl Island of Indian Ocean.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheessan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)

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