By Gam Vaesiya, Ottawa, Canada
(March 03, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A drama has been unfolding in the Mullaithivu (Mooladoova) area where the last desperate dragoons of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are holding hostage, men, women and children numbering perhaps some fifty to a hundred thousand. These are people who had been corralled from all parts of the Vanni, as the Tigers retreated in the face of the juggernaut around it that was relentlessly tightened by the Sri Lankan government forces.
That is, these are harassed civilians who have been forced to move, forced to dig trenches, forced to bear arms, forced to remain hungry and ill-fed as the food supplies and medicines are reserved for the LTTE goons themselves. Many of them know this type of painful trek because the great march from Jaffna to the Vanni not so long ago was also done at the gunpoint of the LTTE - this time it is much worse. Such forced marches displacing people have been engineered by inhuman fanatics fixated by some half-baked idea - as was the case with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Wijeweera or Prabhakaran. The end justifies the means for these fanatics.
Upulvan, the guardian deity of the safe zone
The government, while constricting the terrorists by force of arms, has designated an area as a "safe zone", in the hope that the civilians would be able to escape into these area, if they can free themselves of the tiger clutches. We show here a map of the region, together with the "safe zone" extending from Vella-mullavaikkal (Vaelbatugala) to Puthumattalan (Aluth-massala). The place names of this stretch of coast seem to ring with the strong presence of "thibbatu", or Solanum Indica, a medicinal plant used both by the Sinhalese and the Tamils in many types of medicinal brews. Ironically, the promised Land of EELAM has been replace by a strip of KARIMULLI (thibbatu) or tutuvalai (Vaelbatu)!
However, this stretch of land contains Ampelavanpokkanai (Upulvanpokuna), a
name invoking "Upulvan", a "guardian deity" of Ancient Lanka. So then, the civilians who succeed in coming to the safe zone are under the "protection" of Upulvan! The "Maura, Parevi, Tissara" and "Kokila" Sandesa poems mention Upulvan. Hindu worshippers treat him as an avatar of Vishnu, while Upulvan is a Bodhisatva for the Buddhists.
Paranavitana, using somewhat spacious etymological arguments, suggests that Upulvan may well have been the God Varuna, associated with water and the oceans. Mooladoova (Mullaitivu) was an important harbour during the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruva civilizations, and the name probably signifies the use of the area as a central ("moola") depot on the lagoon-harbour.
However, can Vishnu "protect" the Tamil civilians from the clutches of the Tiger? Many writers have called for a cease-fire, saying that such a ceasefire would "enable the civilians to reach safety". This naively assumes that the problem is simply that the civilians are pinned by the cross-fire between the Tigers and the government forces. In reality, the civilians have been held captive for many months now, and it is their presence which prevents the military from storming the Tigers and finishing them off.
The civilians are also an instrument of the war. The Tigers position their artillery
among the civilians, near hospitals etc., and expect that the presence of civilians will hinder the government from retaliation. The civilians, traumatized and mis-informed, cannot be expected to resist the Tigers or flee. In those occasions where they did so the Tigers opened fire and hung the bodies for good measure and as a warning sign.
Thus the Tigers will hold the civilians by force of arms. The only way to free the
civilians is by disarming the Tigers. Hence the demand that "ceasefire be called" should
be replace by a demand for disarming the Terrorists. Either they should disarm and surrender, or if not, commando tactics used to free hostages should be used.
It is this backdrop of reality that is being obfuscated by various individuals with the cry of "Genocide". This accusation has been hurled, mainly by Tiger supporters, in the hope of rousing the wrath of the international community against the Sri Lankan government, and in diverting the attention of the public away from the atrocities of the Tigers. Even more strangely, some five liberal members of the Canadian parliament have also made this same claim, misusing the license of parliamentary discourse. This is a misuse as some of them even admit, in private, that this was done to satisfy their ethnic constituents whose vote is important to them! However, the accusation of "genocide" coming from Canadian politicians has no moral strength as it has come from a genre of politicians who has transformed the peace-keeping traditions of Pearson's Canada into one of war-mongering in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere.
The camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Another target of the LTTE propaganda has been the designation of the "Kadiragamar" and Manik Farm" camps for IDPs as "concentration camps". How ever, the conditions at these camps, while not being near what prevails in the homes of the expatriates in Scarborough or Boston, are surely at par with the conditions found in Tamil Nadu for Sri Lankan refugees. Probably the "best" refugee camp in Rameshwaram, India, is in Mandapam. The Mandapam camp in Rameswaram has high walls, flood-lit along the perimeter for security, complete with barbed wires and armed guards. It is a transit facility for some 5,000 where the refugees are given shelter, after their authenticity is verified and they go through a quarantine procedure. Most camps are rows and rows of palm-thatched cubicles besides dusty highways, flooded during monsoon. All the refugees are required to carry identity cards, are under 24-hour police surveillance, have to report to authorities whenever required to do so and their access to the media, their kith and kin etc., are severely restricted. In what way are the Sri Lankan camps for IDPs different from the "best" camps in Tamil Nadu? And yet, the BBC commentators have attempted to tag these camps as "concentration camps". Barbed wire is used in Indian camps as well as in Sri Lankan camps. But it is labeled as "razor wire" in Emily Wax's report appearing in the Washington Post (March 3rd). Then the journalist writes, "!The heart of the war has centered on the discrimination that Tamils, who are largely Hindu and make up about 12 percent of the population, have felt for decades in Sri Lanka, said Beate Arnestad, a Norwegian filmmaker who made a 2007 documentary, "My Daughter the Terrorist," about two female Tamil Tiger suicide bombers." The "authorities" that this reporter uses are indeed so partisan that the mind boggles at how such reporting can be condoned by a "reputed" newspaper like the "Washington Post". Clearly, naively, this woman reporter goes to a woman film maker in Norway to find the truth about Sri Lanka!
Perhaps the western reporter has more confidence in another western person whose antecedents are not taken into account. The writer goes onto interview a well-known LTTE activists, and brings up a 1996 gang rape of a Tamil girl by soldiers and gives the impression that this is the on-going state of affairs.
It is in this context that the government should consider allowing respected reporters to visit the war zone (at their own risk), so that a more balanced flow of information would occur.
Perhaps all this mis-reporting is done in the hope of stopping the hand of the Sri
Lankan forces which are set to finish off the Tigers who have holed up in the jungles around Puthkudurippu (Aluthkulissa). Unfortunately, all this propaganda would not be able to restore Prabhakaran who, like Humpty Dumpty, cannot be put back once fallen so low, even with the help of the spirit of a Chola Raja Rajan that once dominated the Tamil Nadu, but now full of movie-actor politicians and Vaiko "jokers".
-Sri Lanka Guardian