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Jaffna academics expose the desperation of dying Ee(vi)laam


“Even when the total weight of the evidence presented point the finger at the Tamil Tigers who commit the unpardonable crime of exposing Tamil teenagers, the sick and the old to certain death in the frontlines UTHR blames the Sri Lankan Government. Is this due to sheer force of habit? Or is it due to the unresolved moral dilemmas of the UTHR authors who cannot find a valid reason to excuse the war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed by the hated Tamil Tigers?”
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(July 15, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) The latest report of University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR) (Bulletin No: 46, July 8, 2008) projects the issue of evil facing the nation in graphic and contrasting terms. In a sense, it represents the soul of the Tamils torn between the evil they face now and their yearning for normalcy and peace like all other communities. Each UTHR report signifies (not in explicit terms though) that the evil bred in Jaffna-centric racism – the only kind of politics pursued by the Jaffna vellahla caste dominating peninsular politics -- is far greater than the evil posed by the state. But, predictably, the authors of UTHR refuses to look inward with moral objectivity and clarity, and even when they admit some aspects of the evil facing the Tamils they try to cover up – and also justify Jaffna-centric evil – by blaming it on the “other”, essentially, the Sri Lankan government.


The Tamils, by and large, are trapped between the subhuman evil that came out of Jaffna-centric racism and the “narrow ideology” of separatism that justifies the evil – an ideology that has dragged the peninsular Tamils from the heights of the privileges and comforts they enjoyed in their heyday to the burning fires of hell ignited by their misguided leaders who promised them their own private heaven. It is an understandable dilemma which has nagged the UTHR authors who have failed to resolve the contradictions facing them. It must be conceded that in the unashamedly biased network of NGOs and INGOs, the role of UTHR stands out because it strives, in its own limited way, to achieve a balance. However, it is sad to note that the balance which the authors seek to achieve eludes them not at the points of description (the documentation is comparatively the most authentic and convincing) but at the points of interpretations of the facts and the prescription of remedies.

The latest UTHR report is a very sad document. Only the hard-hearted will not to be moved when they read the suffering of the Tamil people, especially the old and the sick, as described in the report. On any scale of comparison, the evil committed by the Tamil Tigers far exceeds that of any other known force (Indian or Sri Lankan), just as much as the Tamils killed by the LTTE exceeds those killed by any other force.

In the middle of any war the last remaining moral yardstick is to measure the suffering of victims by the excessive amount of violence used against the non-combatants. The report focuses on the bombs that strike the “civilians” who are driven out of their wits each time they hear a plane coming overhead. But the enormity of the crimes committed by the Tamil Tigers against their own people far exceeds the deaths of civilians caused by bombing, according to the evidence presented in the report.

At the end of each sentence or paragraph you are forced to stop and ask: How can the Tamil Tigers do this to the young Tamils, the old Tamils, the Tamils who are sick and dragged out of hospitals to fight in Prabhakaran’s war? How can Prabhakaran do this to the helpless, distraught Tamil families who are forced to sacrifice the teenage daughters and sons while keeping his sons and daughters in foreign or sheltered havens in Vanni? Each time the planes fly over, according to the report, the Vanni people at least can find some shelter in the bunkers that are everywhere now – schools, public places, roads etc. But they have no shelter from the Tamil Tigers who raid their houses in the dead of night and grab children from their homes. These press gangs in uniform are the hated enemies of the Vanni Tamils, says UTHR.

Though UTHR tries to divert attention to the bombing, its own evidence against the Tigers overshadows the deaths caused by air raids. Take the example of the most controversial bombing raid conducted by the Sri Lankan Air Force. The report states: “There was a long controversy about the 54 young schoolgirls killed in the aerial bomb attack on a camp in Vallipunam on 14th August 2006 where it was maintained that the girls were receiving first aid training. Residents now confirm that the girls were forcibly taken by the LTTE and the training was of a military nature. This does not however justify the Government bombing the schoolgirls.”

This is typical of UTHR report. It goes along with the truth up to the point where judgment has to be passed on the event. At this critical point where the facts, logically and rationally, should hold the LTTE responsible totally for the death of 54 schoolgirls UTHR deviates to blame the government. It is “a self-serving interpretation” of the facts, to quote its own words. It would have been reasonable for UTHR to blame the government if the Government it accuses had some divine knowledge that there were school girls in the bombed Vallipunam camp. The fact remains that it is the LTTE that forcibly planted the schoolgirls to be trained in the use arms against the government forces.

On the evidence presented by UTHR it is clear that they were all trained to be enemy combatants and, therefore, by the accepted military norms, they become a legitimate target. Miliitary installations and training camps are accepted as legitimate targets in warfare, irrespective of the age limits. In any case, according to UTHR, the Tigers are forcibly recruiting teenagers to fight Prabhakaran’s futile war. But UTHR is suggesting that when these brain-washed baby brigades come against the Sri Lankan forces they must stop firing because they are teenagers? The misguided teenagers are not going to spare the lives of the Security Forces in any confrontation in land, air and sea. They are trained to kill in land, air and sea.

Grim and cruel as it may sound, by what moral law should the Sri Lankan forces stop firing at them? Both forces are trained to kill and let both perform their duty, as stated in the Bhagavad Gita. Besides, which army in known history has stopped a war to save those coming at them with guns, irrespective of the age? And why stop only at teenagers? Should the Security Forces also stop firing at the old men who are forcibly recruited and thrown into the frontlines? Also what about the sick dragged out of hospitals to face the bullets of the Sri Lankan Forces? In the instance of Vallipunam camp the LTTE was deliberately exposing the school girls to be a target by making it a frontline of the future. So isn’t the responsibility of protecting those schoolgirls entirely with the LTTE and not the Government?

What is more, the Tigers were hoping to gain international sympathy with each death. And that’s exactly what happened. The local pro-Tiger media, the NGOs, the INGOs, BBC went to town accusing the Government of bombing children who were “sent for training in first aid,” according to their propaganda. Tamil web sites and the Tiger propagandist abroad were crying their hearts out for the schoolgirls bombed by the Government. Now the Tamils admit that it was a military training camp. Preemptive strikes on military installations and training camps are accepted as legitimate actions in warfare. So who is to be blamed? UTHR goes all out to blame the Government. Obviously, UTHR has lost its moral compass? UTHR is most concerned not only about the morality of the war but also the way it is conducted. Leaving the morality of the war aside, who is responsible for exposing the teenagers, the sick and the old for certain death in the frontlines? Why is the needle of the moral compass of those posing as peace-makers fixed immovably and permanently in the direction of the Sinhala south?

Even when the total weight of the evidence presented point the finger at the Tamil Tigers who commit the unpardonable crime of exposing Tamil teenagers, the sick and the old to certain death in the frontlines UTHR blames the Sri Lankan Government. Is this due to sheer force of habit? Or is it due to the unresolved moral dilemmas of the UTHR authors who cannot find a valid reason to excuse the war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed by the hated Tamil Tigers?

This is also the basic dilemma of the Tamil intellectuals: they do not know how to face the horrors and the crimes that came out of Jaffna-centric politics from pre-colonial days. One of the authors of UTHR, the intrepid Dr.Rajan Hoole, in a previous article, openly expressed his horror at the crimes that came out of the womb of Jaffna. Warning the Tamils to “Wake Up!” he sounded pessimistic about the outcome of the violence perpetuated by the Tamil Tiger leadership criminalizing politics. They realize that the fathers of Jaffna-centric separatism have bred a gang of trigger-happy political criminals who have spun out of control. The Tamil intellectuals do not know how to handle the evil of Tamil violence that is dragging the Tamil community to the depths of despair, and even extinction. Their only way out is to blame the “other”. The Sinhalese have been the whipping boys of the Tamil racist wrath that bred the peninsular political crimes in the past, in the present and – one can bet one’s bottom dollar – in the future too.

Before dealing further with the moral dimensions of the evil facing all communities, it is necessary to point out one grim fact facing the Tigers: the UTHR report confirms, perhaps unwittingly, that the Tigers are going down the drain ignominiously, almost like the last days of Hitler hiding in his bunker. The bunker mentality has gripped the Tiger leadership and they do not know how to face the inevitable nemesis coming round the corner. The desperation of the cornered Tigers is forcing them to resort to increasing repressive measures and crimes against their own people. The UTHR report side-steps this aspect though its own evidence should compel them to accept the gruesome reality behind the suffering and the misery of the Tamils.

The following highlights culled from the UTHR report illustrates the desperate situation of LTTE’s Ee(vi)laam in its dying days:

• Assuming there are around 200 000 people or 40 000 families living under LTTE control, the number dead in this round of war is roughly in the order of 5000. This would be fairly commensurate with other estimates from the Vanni, that about 30% of those conscripted in this round of war are, by now, dead.

• The injured from the frontlines are taken to Killinochchi Hospital in buses with windows blackened. After leaving them for a day, LTTE men come and pick up the ones who are fit to hobble about and take them back for military duties. This means that many placed on the frontlines are not fully fit to fight. Their camps being about 10 miles distant from the front, their food supply is also irregular.

• The young dying on the frontlines or being horribly maimed are barely 17 years.

• The young are conscripted in the manner that cattle come of age are taken to the slaughter house.

• LTTE press gangs frequently invade homes before dawn carrying details about the residents, looking for those who have come of conscription age. A boy or girl reaching the age of 17 and failing to report to the LTTE could expect press gangs to turn up within two or three days. Others seen to be suitable are caught on the roads.

• Those who join voluntarily now are exceptional.

• People are giving information to the Government.

• A year ago, Killinochchi AGA Nithyananthan was travelling on his motorcycle with his young daughter on the pillion. He was stopped by the LTTE and the girl was taken. Nothing more has since been heard of her.

•People are prisoners of the LTTE.

• The new conscripts, who hoped against hope that they could escape, are put through brainwashing.

• Since the LTTE sees the new conscripts as the most likely to attempt escape, they are plainly told, “You are here to die for the Nation. If you don’t die today, you may die some weeks later. So why not die now?” They are encouraged to volunteer for risky operations.

• Many of those dying on the front lines are the new conscripts. A very rough idea of the number killed: a village division in South Vanni having about 200 families, told us (UTHR) that about 25 of those conscripted in recent years have been killed.

• Recently, the LTTE was telling the people that the 1990-born were going to be the final batch obliged to join them and the war would then be over. But from 2007, the LTTE was in fact conscripting those who had reached 17. Presently they are appealing to those who are 16 to join voluntarily, but have not begun conscripting them.

• Families are also being pressured to join the service of the LTTE as family units or to pay an exemption tax. We have not received details on how this will be enforced.

• Recently, the LTTE was telling the people that the 1990-born were going to be the final batch obliged to join them and the war would then be over. But from 2007, the LTTE was in fact conscripting those who had reached 17. Presently the LTTE are appealing to those who are 16 to join voluntarily, but have not begun conscripting them.

All this is documented by the authors of UTHR. And after such knowledge what forgiveness for the authors of UTHR who dodge the issue of fixing responsibility fairly and squarely on the criminals who perpetuate these war crimes and crimes against humanity? This, mark you, is only a part of the suffering of the Tamil people. Worse conditions will be revealed in the next article. Till then consider who should bear responsibility for the suffering of our fellow-citizens held as prisoners by the LTTE in the Vanni. If this is the plight, as reported by the leading Tamil academics, consider also whether there is a moral obligation to rescue the prisoners of the LTTE?

( H.L.D.Mahindapala: Editor, Sunday and Daily Observer (1990 – 1994). President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (1991 -1993). Secretary-General, South Asia Media Association (1993 -1994). He has been featured as a political commentator in Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Special Broadcasting Services and other mainstream TV and radio stations in Australia.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

karl said...

I normally don't take Mahindapala's lunatic ravings seriously but in this lates presentation of his special pleadings for Sinhala supremacy he makes an observation that strikes me as possible.He says that the Tamil people in Sri lanka would become "extinct" soon.He may well be right.The sinhals may succeed where Hitler faile with the Jews. Mr. M and his fellow sribes can the claim some ccredit for it.Goebbels Mahindapala?At least the Tamils would go down with a fight!
Karl

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