| by Rajasingham Jayadevan

( March 30, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian ) The count clock of the war dead in Sri Lanka since 1997 is jammed at 100,000. It never moved even a point upward since. Many thousands have been killed ever from that year.

We have seen daily accounts of deaths and there were large numbers of casualties in major confrontations and random killings by the warring parties. The military’s actions against the Tamil civilians are many folds than actions of the LTTE and the civilians were treated as fodders to execute the war agenda.

100,000 has become a stubborn comfort figure that has stuck in the rusted and disabled count clock. Even the UN claim of 40,000 deaths in the final confrontation in 2008/09 did not shake the clock to move upward.

The 100,000 claim does not include the missing persons from all walks of life. There is no proper estimation for the missing persons. Then the government claim of soldiers missing in action can be adduced as military persons killed in the confrontation. The LTTE was giving its daily counts of its dead cadres until the latter stage of the war. LTTE’s official counts too has not helped move the count clock even a point forward. Then there was claims of dead bodies of the soldiers wrapped in black bags and dumped in the sea by the Air Force during the peak of the final battle. These dead are said be counted as military men missing in action.

Gist: These deaths are not in the static 100,000 claim ( File Photo)
The death count in Syria is on a fast upward trend. Within a short period of the internal strife, the death toll has climbed to over 150,000.

Estimation of war deaths in Sri Lanka will be an easy task but a reasonable or actual count will be a daunting one. To get a reasonable count, researching through the daily Sri Lankan newspapers after the 1977 anti-Tamil violence will give a comfortable insight. In such effort, the most difficult one to count is the last stage of the war, when government systematically prevented anyone reporting the casualty details. The government expelled international aid workers and UN staff from the war zone in the last stages of the fighting and blocked independent journalists from covering the war, making it impossible for outsiders to know the extent of civilian deaths. Until the genie let out, the true number will not come out.

Will the ICRC facilitate its statistical record on the number of killed in the war in Sri Lanka?. ICRC will be a difficult source as it will take cover under its mandate to be non controversial and will not compromise it’s non partisan stand.

The government has undertaken a count of the dead, wounded and the missing in the over quarter century old war on November 29, 2013. Will the Commission inquiring undertake a proper count of the dead. The effort of the government is braded as a “sham” already. If this is true, the count clock will be forced move backward from the static 100,000 dead.

Only credible source that can unearth the true number of deaths in the final war is the oncoming UN inquiry. If UN succeeds in reaching the wider focus of the war, scale of the deaths will become credible count.

Let’s wait and see whether or when the counting clock will show signs of some movement movement.