the Blacklight Arrow

David Blacker’s Blog

Lies and a Tiger — How a Diaspora is Killing its Own

Pro-LTTE demonstrations in Sydney (tamilsydneydotcom31/flickr)

Pro-LTTE demonstrations in Sydney (tamilsydneydotcom31/flickr)

As the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam grinds inexorably towards certain defeat for the self-proclaimed representatives of the Tamil nation, there seems to be no great fanfare, no glorious last stands. This revolution dies not with a bang, but with whimpers and cowardice. And lies.

For a year the Tamil diaspora, spread from Tamil Nadu to Toronto, watched open-mouthed with disbelief as the iron fist of the Sri Lankan infantry divisions cut the Tiger formations to pieces, hammering them back into a tiny pocket close to Mullaitivu on the island’s northeastern coast. Now, as the world watches, a mortally wounded Tiger cowers behind the very people it claims to defend, mauling them as it dies.

As the pace of the offensive slows down in the heavily populated Mullaitivu District, the Tamil diaspora has finally found its voice, and a cause worthy of its outrage – the Tamil population of the Wanni, trapped in the fighting and suffering horribly. They lack everything human beings have a right to expect – food, shelter, clothing, security, life itself. If anything in the northeast is worthy of our attention, it is these people, held hostage by their proclaimed protectors, forced to face the guns and tanks of the SL Army in the cynical hope that if enough of them are killed or maimed, the world might step in and save the LTTE.

Tamil family sit by a trench in the LTTE-occupied "No Fire Zone" (Human Rights Watch)

Tamil family sit by a trench in the LTTE-occupied No Fire Zone (Human Rights Watch)

The diaspora, organized and spurred by LTTE front organizations, chants its mantra of concentration camps and Sri Lankan government genocide of the Tamils, ignoring the fact that it is the LTTE, and not the government, that is holding the Wanni Tamils in these inhuman conditions. And like all human catastrophies, this one too, has spawned its celebrity hangers-on. First, Sri Lankan-born British rapper MIA, and now at the eleventh hour, Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy. These two individuals more or less represent the two strongest tones of voice we hear calling for a cessation of the Sri Lankan military offensive against the Tigers.

MIA at the Grammies in Feb '09

MIA at the Grammies in Feb '09

MIA largely chooses to ignore all reality in favour of an LTTE-created one in which hundreds of thousands of Tamils have died at the hands of a million-strong Sinhalese army which is gassing, raping and torturing its way through the Wanni, while the valiant Tamil freedom fighters stand like Leonidas’ three-hundred between Adolf Hitler and a Tamil holocaust. Roy, on the other hand, seems to be more a victim of her own intellectual laziness. Her recent article in this paper is mostly third-hand information, cherry-picked from a single Sunday Telegraph interview of a disgraced former Sri Lankan foreign minister. Instead of delving into the real issues, Roy chooses to skim across what pricks her outrage the most. At least MIA pretends she knows what she’s talking about, but Roy prefers emotion and drama, and makes even well-established facts sound like tribal tomtoms in the jungle. In addition to echoing MIA’s genocide charge, she claims that the Sri Lankan government is busily setting up concentration camps to enslave the Tamils of the island.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

The accusations of genocide and concentration camps remain a figment of fiction, regardless of how many times the lie is repeated. The one single thing standing between the Wanni Tamils and safety is the LTTE. And there is very little the diaspora or anyone outside Sri Lanka can do to make them let their people go. Twice the government has declared ‘no fire zones’ in LTTE territory and urged the civilians unable to escape to find shelter there from the fighting. The Tigers have, however, blatantly violated these zones, operating within them and using them to launch attacks against the SL Army, inviting the inevitable retaliatory strikes and resultant horrors on the civil populace. Meanwhile, the LTTE continues to hold the thousands of Tamils in these ‘no fire zones’ hostage, conscripting even the elderly and very young as slave labour and cannon fodder, forcing them to endure the unbearable, and using deadly force to prevent them escaping to safety in the government-controlled areas. In spite of the dangers, thousands of civilians have risked death and injury at the hands of their self-proclaimed protectors in order to flee to safety, many paying the ultimate price in the attempt. All of this has been clearly documented by NGOs and international envoys. And all of it is ignored by the likes of MIA and Arundhati Roy and the millions of Tamils across the world who have outsourced the future of the Tamil cause to a megalomaniac.

mktc0407

So while they bask in the post-orgasmic glow of their righteous anger, out in the jungle, little children are dying. And no amount of protest, no flag-waving, no hunger strike will save them. What will save them is the speedy and efficient destruction of the LTTE that has visited this catastrophe on them.

This piece appeared in the Times of India on 12th April 2009 and was written in response to Arundhati Roy’s article which appeared in the same paper on 30th March.

Advertisements

April 14, 2009 - Posted by | Politics, Security, Uncategorized, War | , , , , , , , ,

69 Comments »

  1. bravo. Excellent

    Comment by tina | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. I don’t blame LTTE or Diaspora for this behavior. It is human nature to manipulate the system for our benefit (for good or bad). It is those numerous NGOs and other international organizations that maintains such a system, voluntarily be manipulated like a teenage boy in some parts of the world, are causing this to go on and on.

    Comment by Sam | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks Blacker for this excellent piece of analysis! Hope this will be an eye-opener for those who believe that by saving the LTTE through lies and false propaganda will give a solution to SL’s conflict.

    Your analysis always carry an added value as you have seen the real combat and experienced it as a soldier in early 90s, as an enlisted soldier in SL army. Most of the analysis what we see about the present war are by those who have even never set foot in North and East of Sri Lanka.

    You have indeed made a history in SL as the first soldier (among the non-commissioned men) in SL army (Whether it’s among all the three armed forces?) who wrote a book in English based on the SL’s conflict.

    Comment by Pina Kaludava | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Clear and to the point. Hope this will open a few eyes.

    Comment by Sri Lankan | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. David, you have to read tamil newspapers (at least get them translated) like the Virakesari to understand our side of the story..I’m not defending the LTTE, but the SLA is also guilty of saying that Pudhumaththalai was a ‘safe zone’ but fired into it as soon as civilians entered it…their gross disregard for hospitals, sending shells in the direction of hospitals is extremely horrifying…

    My mom’s friend (a person not used to exaggeration) has gone to one of the refugee camps in Vavuniya, and, she being a person of average height (about 5″7′) said that the tents were so low that she couldn’t walk in it properly, and the conditions are not much to boast about…

    Comment by Cricket Tragic | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  6. “The accusations of genocide and concentration camps remain a figment of fiction, regardless of how many times the lie is repeated. ” Sadly, this is not true. The Sri Lankan government is guilty of perpetrating genocide against Tamils in the Wanni and the LTTE are part-and-parcel of this genocide. If the LTTE did not exist, the genocide of Tamils would simply continue vis-a-vis the Sri Lankan government.

    The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. defines a concentration camp as “a camp where non-combatants of a district are accommodated.” During the Second Boer War, the term concentration camp was used to describe camps operated by the British in South Africa. The use of the word concentration came from the idea of concentrating a group of people who… Read More are in someway undesirable in one place, where they can be watched by those who incarcerated them. For example, in a time of insurgency, potential supporters of the insurgents are placed where they cannot provide them with supplies or information. As a result of the Nazi regime, the term “concentration camp” carries many of the connotations of “extermination camp.”
    However, a concentration camp is not by definition a death-camp.

    In light of this, what the Sri Lankan Government terms “welfare villages” that are used to hold Tamils displaced by the military campaign in North can quite accurately be called concentration camps. In these camps, civilians are literally confined within barbed wire enclosed areas … Read Morewithout the freedom to come and go as they please. In many cases, individuals have permanently lost touch with loved ones. There have also been numerous reports of sterilizations, sexual slavery, etc. The government intends to maintain these camps for three years.

    Comment by Bahi | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  7. There has been a reluctance on the part of the mainstream media to accept the term “genocide” that has been used to describe the situation in the Wanni region of Sri Lanka. A large part of this has to do with the association, in the public mind, of these terms with the Holocaust, which involved one of the worst genocides perpetrated in human history. A careful study of this term, however, reveals that this is indeed an appropriate word to describe what is going on in Sri Lanka today.

    Article 2 of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such: killing members of the group; causing series bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Clearly, intent is a crucial part of the definition of the term. And it is readily apparent that both parties to the conflict — the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE — have intentionally brought about untold destruction of civilian life in the Vanni region. The LTTE, although they claim to be the sole representative of the Tamils, have been accused of using Tamil civilians as human shields and intentionally firing on those who have tried to escape their grip. Still worse is the Government of Sri Lanka, who despite claiming to represent all of the island’s ethnicities, engages in indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian areas and routinely violates international humanitarian law in their military campaign into predominantly Tamil areas.

    The defense used by the Government that this cannot be a genocide because Tamils are not being killed in other parts of the country fails to hold water because the genocide definition only requires that the acts are intended to destroy “in part” a national or ethnic group. The defense employed by the Government that civilian deaths are “collateral damage” or an unintended consequence also does not stand because the Government has always maintained that this is not an ethnic war but a war against a terrorist outfit aimed at liberating a segment of the population. If this were the case, then the utmost care would be exercised by a Government seeking to free its people from a ruthless outfit holding them hostage. But this is far from the case, as Government use of multibarrel rocket launchers to decimate large swathes of territory (HRW) and intentional bombing of declared “safe zones” demonstrates that the Sri Lankan armed forces do not view the Tamil civilians as “their people” but as LTTE-sympathizers whom they are intent on destroying or imprisoning. Furthermore, there would be no need to expel UN monitors, NGOs and journalists from the conflict zone unless there was something the Government had to hide.

    Chaulk and Jonassohn define a “retributive genocide” as one that is most likely to occur when one group dominates another group and fears its rebellion when the other group actually rebels. This was what happened in 1983 during the Sri Lankan state-sponsored pogrom, when Sinhala thugs were provided voter lists in order to wreak maximum damage on the Tamil population after 13 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in an ambush by the LTTE; and this is what is happening again with the Sri Lankan army’s assault on the Vanni region in Northern Sri Lankan after ongoing suicide bombings by the LTTE.

    Thus, the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka is two-fold: an autogenocide perpetrated by the LTTE and a retributive genocide waged by the Government of Sri Lanka.

    If we can accept that the situation in Sri Lanka clearly fits the UN definition and a number of scholarly definitions of the term, why then the reluctance to apply it to the present situation? First, many people hold the view that while what is happening in Sri Lanka is horrible, the scale of it is not the same as what happened during the Holocaust and in Rwanda — two of the most memorable and worst genocides in human history. And that by labelling what is presently occurring in Sri Lanka a genocide, we in some way detract from the historical significance of these events. I would, however, argue that we need a broader conceptualization of the term. If we only acknowledged genocides on the scale of the Holocaust and Rwanda, we would overlook some terrible situations in this world and lose our ability to prevent situations from spiralling out of control. On the other hand, if we are too broad in our conceptualization, we could end up labelling everything a genocide, and the term would lose its usefulness. Second, use of the term “genocide” implores one to act. If genocide is going on, something must be done to stop it. This is why, as recently as Darfur, people have opposed use of the term to benefit politically and downplay the human tragedy. And this is precisely why I favor a broader conceptualization of the term. We cannot simply wait until it is too late to call a situation a genocide.

    Well, how bad is the situation in Sri Lanka? An unobstructed view of the numbers is revelatory. Of the 75,000 lives claimed in the ongoing violence since independence, the vast majority (greater than 95%) are Tamil; at least 800,000 Tamils have been displaced all over globe (primarily the result of the 1983 pogrom and systematic government discrimination); and currently there are least 325,000 internally displaced Tamils within Sri Lanka. This would mean that at a minimum, a whopping 40% of the Sri Lankan Tamil population have been directly affected in a significant way by this ongoing conflict. Anywhere between 2-3% of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka have been killed, and the potential exists for this number to increase to anywhere in the range of 7-9% based on the number of civilians trapped in the conflict zone. By comparison, the Guatemalan genocide involved 3% of the Mayan population killed, the Kurdish genocide in Iraq saw 4% of the Kurdish population eradicated, the Bosnian genocide saw 6% of the Bosnian muslim population eliminated, and in Darfur we witnessed 8% of the Zaghawa, Masalit and Fur tribes decimated. Must we wait for this percentage to climb before we can label this situation a genocide, or can we act before then?

    The genocide in Sri Lanka is also tougher to name because it does not involve a singularly discernible perpetrator. There is no Hitler or Hussein. Today there is Rajapaske; yesterday it was Jayawardene (“The more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here. Really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.” 1983) But close inspection reveals what can be seen to be a slow, insidious genocide. While no official decree bids the killing of Tamils, a culture has been fostered whereby Tamils can be imprisoned, tortured or killed with impunity. Not a single member of the Sri Lankan armed forces has been charged for a crime against a Tamil civilian. The only crimes that go punished are those that involve speaking out against the Government. The common thread that ties the many Sri Lankan governments is the underlying belief that Tamils are interlopers on the island, and that they must not “make undue demands” (Sarath Fonseka). Articles on prominent Sri Lankan websites (e.g., LankaWeb’s “The Only Practical Solution) advocate genocide as the only viable solution to eliminate the Tamil “cancer.” And while the rhetoric of the government is careful not to openly reflect this line of thinking, there is no effort made to suppress these viotriolic forces and the government’s actions certainly leave no doubt in anyone’s minds what their objective might be.

    In defining genocide, Raphael Lemkin (1943) wrote, “Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.”

    The genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka quite plainly fits this description. Since the independence of the island, there has been a carefully coordinated set of actions that were aimed at destroying the essential foundations of life for Tamils, beginning with the Sinhala Only Act in 1956, which deprived Tamils the right to use their language in an official capacity, right through to Standardization in 1976, which deprived Tamils equal rights to education. State-sponsored colonization schemes were then carefully employed to undermine Tamil claims for a homeland and feelings of national solidarity. The burning of the historical Jaffna Library was another such coordinated action aimed at destroying a monumental cultural institution of the Tamils. The organized pogroms of 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977 and 1983 demonstrate a historical continuity to the genocide. The Chenmanni mass grave in 1996 where the bodies of 600 disappeared Tamils were unearthed in the Jaffna peninsula is one of many examples of what happens to Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces even after a military campaign is complete. As a result, the roughly 3,000 civilians that have been killed in the Vanni in 2009 must be seen in the context of the historical genocide perpetrated against Tamils primarily by the Sri Lankan state, although recently also by the LTTE who claim to be fighting on behalf of Tamils.

    Comment by Bahi | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  8. Excellent write up. Waiting with bated breath for the Diaspora idiot trolls to begin their whining both here and on the Times India website.

    Comment by N | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  9. facts are given out clearly and the picture is clear. the Tamil diaspora from around the world need to rethink about their actions. they should be campaigning to stop the LTTE and to force them to let the civilians they are holding captive to let go with ought being so blind to the facts. and to Missing Intelligence Altogether(MIA), please come to Sri Lanka and see. read the reports by envoys and NGO’s about what is the real situation in the north. it is because of people like you that innocent Tamils suffer. you live in security and safety of a foreign country asking poor Tamil people to fight your wars for you. when they are only asking for self respect as human beings you MIA ask them to make sacrifices to gain your own miserly ends. so hats of to David blacker who has stated the facts correctly. good job David.

    Comment by MiddleMan | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  10. […] Blacklight Arrow comments: “the diaspora, organized and spurred by LTTE front organizations, chants its mantra of […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Sri Lanka: On Allegations By The Diaspora | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  11. Cricket Tragic, I do try to get both sides of the story. I am a frequent reader of http://www.transcurrents.com for instance. If you’re saying that the SL Army is being callous, I agree. It’s been a long and brutal war, and the milk of human kindness is running dry on both sides. However, if you think the SL Army is callous, what do you have to say about the LTTE’s continued use of the no fire zone as a base from which to launch strikes against the Army, thus inviting reataliation that will no doubt cause terrible suffering to their own people, the Tamils? And yes, I agree that the conditions in the welfare camps are not comfortable, but they are much better than the conditions in the LTTE-occupied no fire zone. The GoSL and many NGOs are striving to improve the situation in these camps, and it would be a great help if the diaspora would divert its money and vocal cords towards helping these poor people rather than the Tigers who are creating the hardship.

    Bahi, as your cut-and-paste para states, the use of the term ‘concentration camp’ has come to mean ‘death camp’, thanks to the Nazis. That is the broad understanding of the term. So let’s not split hairs here — it’s quite clear what the diaspora and other LTTE apologists want understood when they use the term. But conversely, if these welfare villages are concentration camps, what would you call the camps in which the Tigers are holding tens of thousands of Tamils in — health camps?

    Both your quoted definitions of genocide (UN and Lemkin) have not been fulfilled in SL. The GoSL has not attempted to destroy “a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”; nor has it caused “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”; nor has it intentionally inflicted on any such group “conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”; it has not brought about “measures intended to prevent births within the group”; nor is it guilty of “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”. In fact, the only entity guilty of many of the above criteria is the LTTE which ethnically cleansed the Jaffna Peninsula as well as most of the Northern Province of the Tamil-speaking Muslim Moors.

    I think it is fair to concede that many acts of commission and ommission done by the GoSL in the ’80s (the ’83 riots, the burning of the Jaffna Library, the transplanting of the Mahaweli farmers, etc) could fall under Lemkin’s definition of genocide. Whether we’re willing to accept this definition or not is another matter, but it’s quite clear that such things are no longer happening. Tamils are not persecuted as a people in SL anymore — they are free to practice their religion, culture, arts, etc. It is true that Tamils suffer hardship throughout SL at checkpoints (read more about that here), during search ops, etc, and this is due to racial profiling and sometimes corruption, but it’s no more genocide than there is a genocide of black people in New York, nor of Muslims in Europe.

    Pointing to the Chemmani graves as a sign of genocide is absurd. Did the GoSL commit genocide against the Sinhalese when it put down the JVP? Not every extra-judicial killing or war crime is genocide. Did the LTTE commit genocide when it massacred over 800 policemen who had laid down their arms and surrendered in 1990? While all of the above remain attrocities and war crimes, they are not genocide. None of the above were done because the murdered were members of an etnic, religious, or national group. They were done either because the said victims were members of a political, militant, or state group, or for other reasons such as personal gain. It makes little difference in the end to the victims, and it is still terrible, but it’s not genocide. My article was written to pointedly refute that allegation which is being levelled either by people who don’t understand what genocide is or, understanding what it is, prefer to ignore the true definition because it suits their political agenda.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  12. @Bahi – Interesting points. However I do have one question; is it your understanding that it is the Sri Lankan government’s policy to eliminate Tamils from the North and the East?

    Comment by N | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  13. N, I don’t believe it to be the Sri Lankan government’s stated policy to eliminate Tamils from the North and the East. However, they have certainly fostered a climate whereby Tamils in the North and East are marginalized and have their freedoms restricted. It would not surprise me that once the war is over, if the government were to begin efforts to colonize the North and East.

    Comment by Bahi | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  14. David, I don’t have a political agenda. My primary concern is that the Tamil people in Sri Lanka are able to live with equality and dignity, with the ability to determine their political future.

    I do find it a little hard, however, to agree with your claim that the GoSL has not caused “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the [Tamil] group”. Despite the media ban in the Wanni, one does not need to look far to find credible reports of exactly this. There is no denying a culture of impunity that exists within the Sri Lankan armed forces, and there is no denying an ingrained racism that is widespread among the majority. Given these undeniables, why is it so hard to imagine that despite there not being an openly stated policy to kill Tamils, this is exactly what is taking place. Dropping bombs on hospitals and “no fire” zones can only be done with either a callous disregard for civilian life or an intention to eliminate a group. It’s just hard to conceive otherwise. There are also credible reports of sterilizations performed by the Sri Lankan armed forces within the government-held internment camps (for a less loaded term). And given Sri Lanka’s not-too-distant anti-Tamil history, all the hallmarks of a genocide are indeed present.

    Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch categorizes genocide as a process that develops in eight stages:
    1. Classification: People are separated into “us and them.” — no question that this exists in Sri Lanka with respect to the two communities
    2. Symbolization: Names or symbols (such as the yellow star for Jews or the black triangle for Roma) are given to the classifications.
    — Tiger vs. Lion symbolism
    3. Dehumanization: The “other group” is equated with “animals, vermin, insects or disases.”
    — numerous references in mainstream outlets to Tamil “cancer”, Tamils as “para demala”
    4. Organization: Special army units or militias are trained; the killings are planned.
    — proxy paramilitary groups employed by the GoSL to place hits on Tamil leadership and moderate journalists (e.g. Lasantha)
    5. Polarization: Groups are driven apart by extremists.
    — Sinhala chauvinists (Buddhist sangha) and LTTE
    6. Preparation: Targeted people are physically separated from others, forced to leave their homes or live in ghettos or concentration camps.
    — “welfare villages” or internment camps that are used in the Wanni
    7. Extermination: Mass killing of the group begins.
    — 3,000 civilians killed and 70,000 to 150,000 civilians trapped and waiting for a potential blood bath
    8. Denial: The perpetrators cover up the evidence of the crimes, deny the crimes and block investigations into the crimes. They stay in power until they are removed by force.
    — The denial, sadly, is already taking place with articles such as yours.

    Comment by Bahi | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  15. “I do find it a little hard, however, to agree with your claim that the GoSL has not caused “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the [Tamil] group””

    Bahi, please. Can you show me any credible evidence of the GoSL’s intent to cause the above to Tamils simply because they are Tamils, as opposed to as a by product of their intent to destroy the LTTE?

    Yes, there is racism amongst the Sinhalese majority, as much as there is amongst the Tamil minority. Yes, there is a culture of impunity amongst the armed forces. But it is not genocide. All of the above exist and has existed in every single armed force at war since the beginning of time. It does not make it genocide.

    “Given these undeniables, why is it so hard to imagine that despite there not being an openly stated policy to kill Tamils, this is exactly what is taking place.”

    Because there is no evidence of it. If as you say there is an intent to kill all Tamils simply because they are Tamils, how are so many thousands making it into the welfare camps? Why are they not shot on sight?

    “Dropping bombs on hospitals and “no fire” zones can only be done with either a callous disregard for civilian life or an intention to eliminate a group.”

    Yes there is a callous disregard for civilian life on both sides. The LTTE has long proven this disregard for Sinhalese civilians in the countless bombings in the south; it has also proven its disregard for Tamil civilians as evidenced by the shooting down of the Lionair flight in October ’98, but never on a scale such as this. If the LTTE’s goal is the freedom and dignity of the Tamil people, they should put those people’s needs before their own and refrain from using the no fire zone as a base of operations.

    “There are also credible reports of sterilizations performed by the Sri Lankan armed forces within the government-held internment camps”

    I have not seen any such reports, and if they exist it would be useful if you could provide a link to them.

    “1. Classification: People are separated into “us and them.” — no question that this exists in Sri Lanka with respect to the two communities”

    SL communities have always held themselves separate from each other in terms of language, religion, marriage, etc, so this is not applicable in the way it would be in say 1930s Germany, 1970s Northern Ireland, or 1990s Yugoslavia.

    “2. Symbolization: Names or symbols (such as the yellow star for Jews or the black triangle for Roma) are given to the classifications. – Tiger vs. Lion symbolism”

    Yes, or the American star versus the Islamic moon — genocide obviously. Bahi, aren’t you stretching things here a bit? Graphic symbols are part and parcel of human culture, from the brand of rice you eat to the car you drive. Is the British Jaguar committing genocide on the Italian Ferrari’s stallion? Unless you can show how symbolism is relevant to genocide (beyond pointing out that the Jews had a star and the Tigers have a tiger), it’s irrelevant.

    “3. Dehumanization: The “other group” is equated with “animals, vermin, insects or disases.””

    You mean like the krauts, nips, slopes, limeys, yankees, zips, ragheads and all the other enemies of a thousand wars? Calling the enemy derogatory terms doesn’t make it genocidal. This article is about the latter, not about hatred or racism.

    “4. Organization: Special army units or militias are trained; the killings are planned.”

    Every army in the world has these. Do you have a point, Bahi, regarding the genocide issue?

    “– proxy paramilitary groups employed by the GoSL to place hits on Tamil leadership and moderate journalists (e.g. Lasantha)”

    Please see the fourth para of my previous comment. I’d rather not repeat mysef.

    “5. Polarization: Groups are driven apart by extremists.
    – Sinhala chauvinists (Buddhist sangha) and LTTE”

    Again, Bahi, I must ask you to make your point rather than cutting and pasting stuff. It’s getting tedious.

    “6. Preparation: Targeted people are physically separated from others, forced to leave their homes or live in ghettos or concentration camps. – “welfare villages” or internment camps that are used in the Wanni”

    There is no separation, Bahi. The Tamils held by the LTTE are already separated. Nowhere are Tamils being uprooted from their homes amongst other communities and sent off anywhere. The welfare villages are to house the Tamils until the LTTE can be hunted down and the areas secured and demined. It is to prevent conscription and infilteration of the civil population by the LTTE. It is to prevent the civilians being used as shields.

    “7. Extermination: Mass killing of the group begins.”

    There have been no such mass killings of “the group”.

    “8. Denial: The perpetrators cover up the evidence of the crimes, deny the crimes and block investigations into the crimes. They stay in power until they are removed by force. – The denial, sadly, is already taking place with articles such as yours.”

    So because there is no evidence, obviously it must have been covered up. Like those flying saucers no one can find. In other words, denial or defence is futile in the face of all accusations. Brilliant. Thank you.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  16. David, it’s next to impossible to conclusively prove intent. The difference between callous disregard for civilian life and intentional extermination of civilians is a thin one, and given the context of the hatred going on, the charge of genocide is highly plausible and should not simply be denied on face. The point I was trying to make is that genocide is a complex process involving a high degree of hatred (which you seem to concede exists) for ‘the other’. The stages that I have outlined do, I believe, point to a genocidal process that is currently active in Sri Lanka. If 3,000 civilians dead do not a mass killing make, what does? The photos of the dead and dying circulating the web arising from the GoSL military onslaught and LTTE counter-actions are no flying saucers.

    Comment by Bahi | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  17. Bahi,

    Some thought-provoking stuff here for sure.

    You have employed a rather innovative rhetorical device here by conceding that the LTTE has been a party to the alleged genocide. This gives the impression of dispassionate and reasoned analysis.

    Which is necessary, because your main argument is quite incredible – that the government of Sri Lanka, through successive administrations, has been engaging in a slow, calculated, pre-meditated genocide of the Tamils, and the LTTE is just an incidental sideshow to this much larger atrocity.

    No doubt the GoSL has often functioned as a tool of Sinhalese nationalism, and this is reprehensible. Yet most of the death and displacement that the Tamils in Sri Lanka have suffered has come not from Sinhala-only, university standardization, the burning of the Jaffna library or some diabolical plot to stealthily wipe out a race of people.

    It is a sad consequence of the LTTE’s unrelenting violence, brutality and intansigence, all of which have long outlived whatever rationale, justification, or utility they may once have had.

    German humiliation and grievance after the First World War gave rise to the Nazis. But ultimately, it was Hitler – not the Treaty of Versailles – who led his people to their doom.

    Comment by rajivmw | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  18. btw, can you identify any of these reports of sterilization and sexual slavery at the IDP camps?

    And that shocking quote from JRJ – where is that taken from? Just curious.

    Comment by rajivmw | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  19. I wanted to say so much but I am at loss for words. I hope Arundhati Roy and MIA (and others too) try to give something or do something constructive towards the people who are suffering, like those in IDP camps. I know I do and I know people like Indi and many Sri Lankans do.

    Comment by kalusudda | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  20. David,

    Well said but Tamil Diaspora and some international community members conveniently ignore this also like many other articles.

    Anyway thanks for writing and when are you going to write another book on current phase of the eelam war. We are waiting to read it like last one.

    Comment by Romeo | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  21. The Jeyawardene quote is generally credited to the July 11/83 edition of the Daily Telegraph. I spent a little while looking for a copy of the paper online but, unfortunately, the lexis nexis and factiva archives for both the UK and Sydney Daily Telegraphs only extend back to the mid-90’s and early 00’s, respectively.

    Comment by Anip | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  22. As an aside, in that short search I came across a lot of media coverage on Sri Lanka from the summer/autumn of ’83. The FT, in particular, had a few lengthier features on the escalating conflict.

    It’s striking how aware everyone seemed to be about what was happening…what has resulted should have seemed inevitable and the leadership should have acted to avoid it, but there always seems to be a Prabakaran/Cyril Mathew there to ensure that we all stayed on the track to hell.

    A lot of the coverage was also strangely reminiscent of the stories about the conflict that I read today. The world doesn’t change much, decade after decade.

    Comment by Anip | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  23. “f 3,000 civilians dead do not a mass killing make, what does?” – I assume that makes the Iraq war pretty genocidal, what with 90,000 civilians dead.

    Comment by N | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  24. Rajivmw, I think we’re more or less on the same page. The only thing I wish to clarify is that my claim is actually not that incredible. Rather than it being a premeditated and calculated genocide, which I must admit is a little far-fetched, but rather an inevitable outcome of the Sinhalese nationalist forces that have exerted and continue to exert such influence over the Government. The role of the LTTE is no mere rhetorical device; I hold them very much responsible for the genocide of the Tamil people, but they are very much an outgrowth of and a response to the State’s oppression of Tamils that has been going on for much longer. But you are right to point out that this rationale and justification has been outlived, and their intransigence has contributed greatly to the loss of Tamil lives.

    The shocking quote from JRJ was reported to the Daily Telegraph on July 11, 1983.

    As for the reports of sterilizations and sexual slavery, the source I had was from a reputable Tamil doctor in the area. I guess that’s part of the reason for this seeming disconnect; the Tamil Diaspora is receiving information from their brethren in Sri Lanka about some of the horrendous things that are taking place in these IDP camps, but these are not viewed as credible sources and portrayed in Sinhala news sources as Tiger propaganda. At the same time, there is a media ban that prevents independent monitors from reporting on the situation.

    Why not allow journalists and NGOs into the area, if things aren’t as bleak as I suggest?

    Comment by Bahi | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  25. N, my point is that it’s not just the absolute number (which is quite terrible in its own right); it’s the historical context and the various indicators of a genocidal process at work. And furthermore, this is not a an invasion into a foreign country the way that the Iraq war was (or is it??). This is supposed to be a government liberating ITS population from a terrorist outfit! I think we can all agree that if it were Sinhalese civilians that were trapped in this “no fire” zone, there would be a very different approach that would be taken. The world has changed a lot since the 1980s, where there was no need to disguise genocidal intent. I think in this day and age, countries have to be a little bit more sophisticated, which Sri Lanka is demonstrating, in concealing what is fundamentally a genocidal process at work.

    Comment by Bahi | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  26. @ Bahi

    “The photos of the dead and dying circulating the web arising from the GoSL military onslaught and LTTE counter-actions are no flying saucers.”

    According to you, the GOSL and the LTTE seem to be equal partners in the on-going ‘genocide’. If that is the case, why then are the members of the Tamil diaspora still waving the LTTE flag at all their protests?

    Are they condemning the GOSL for killing Tamils, yet openly supporting the LTTE for committing ‘genocide’ of their fellow Tamils?

    This alone exposes the utter hypocrisy of the Tamil diaspora who live in the comfort of their western countries and scream for more of their helpless brothers in Sri Lanka to take up arms and be killed.

    If they are actually worried about the safety of the Tamils in the war zone, they should go to any lengths to ensure the killings stop. Even if that means staging mass protests asking for the LTTE to unconditionally surrender!

    So let’s see exactly how genuine the Tamil diaspora is in their ‘concern’ for the IDP’s in Sri Lanka. IMHO, they don’t really give a toss about them, it’s just that they want the war to continue so they can swagger around the streets of Toronto and Norway pretending to be from this supremely militant race of people from ‘Eezham’

    BTW, as for MIA and Ms. Roy, they should get together and put on a stand up comedy routine. That’s probably where their true talent lies.

    Comment by thekillromeoproject | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  27. Excellent David, well said and well done!

    Comment by Serendib_isle | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  28. Bahi,
    ” …if it were Sinhalese civilians that were trapped in this “no fire” zone, there would be a very different approach that would be taken….”

    I belive the closest scenario we could recall is the crushing of jvp insurrection in 89′ where govt carried out it’s -dare i say brutual- operations irrespective of the fact that jvpers were predominantly sinhalese. The idea
    was to wipe out the terrorism, not to kill southern sinhalese youth per se.Same logic applies here,where govt is trying to wipe out the terrorist factor(LTTE) and not tamils.Therefore your claims of “fundamentally a genocidal process at work” is strectching the definition of genocide ,dont you think?

    Comment by tharindu | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  29. Brilliant post David, right to the point.
    Good work.

    Comment by Sachintha | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  30. Bahi, I’m afraid that evidence of intent is the crux of a genocide allegation. Just as it is with murder. You cannot simply say “oh it’s too difficult so just take my word for it”. Circumstantial evidence is just too thin. I think you still don’t understand what genocide is. Your claim that the line between callous disregard and genocide is a thin one reveals this. It is not a thin line. It is a broad and well defined one, and intent is written on it in large letters.

    Let me give you some examples. When Germany invaded France in 1940, the drive to the channel saw the Germans (not particularly well known for their kindness to civilians) striving to trap and decimate the Allied armies. The strategy of blitzkrieg (which attempts to destabilize the enemy frontline through close air support and interdiction of its immediate rear) was applied. This strategy was incredibly callous of the French and Belgian refugees who were crowding the roads west and mingling with the retreating Allies. However, this was not genocide, since the intent wasn’t to kill French civilians – their deaths were a tragic byproduct. The RAF and USAAF tactical interdiction of the German supply lines during the 1944-45 invasion of Germany was similarly callous, but not genocidal. Even the strategic bombing of German cities, which had the secondary goal of breaking the German civil population’s will to fight, is not deemed genocidal, as the intent was not to destroy the German people. On the other hand, the operations carried out by Germany in eastern Europe against Jews and other undesirables are clearly defined as genocide. Why? Intent. Numerous war crimes trials have hinged on this factor, and to dismiss it as hard to prove is evidence of your lack of understanding of the charge. At the end of WW2 Waffen-SS Obergruppenfuhrer Joachim Peiper was convicted of being responsible for the Malmeddy massacre when he commanded Kampfgruppe Peiper during the Battle of the Bulge. This verdict was later overturned, largely on the grounds of intent.

    Attempting to loosely apply a pattern over Sri Lankan history just isn’t sufficient.

    But let’s leave that aside for a moment, Bahi. You’ve been asked to provide proof of your frankly incredible claims of sexual abuse and sterilization in the welfare camps, but haven’t done so. Is there any reports of this from a credible media source, UN or NGO? Is there any first-hand anecdotal evidence? If you cannot back up these details, I am forced to look at your more serious genocide allegations as similarly unsupported.

    You also continue to paraphrase my statements in order to make them easier to argue with. For example you try to make out that there is an especially high degree of hatred involved in this war which lays the basis for genocide, and that I have conceded this point. I haven’t. The hatred is no more nor less than in any long war. In fact, I have personally found that their is a hatred-to-distance ratio that increases exponentially the further away you move from the battlefield.

    In addition, you seem to think that Sinhalese civilians would be treated differently if they were in such a predicament as the Tamils of the NE find themselves. Once more, I must ask you if you have not observed the high death toll in the 1987-89 JVP uprising? Almost as many Sinhalese (roughly 80,000) were killed in less than three years as opposed to 30 years for the Tamils. Sinhalese civilians have been treated just as brutally by the GoSL and the Army.

    Bahi, is it not possible that you’re setting out to try and prove something you’ve already convinced yourself is true, rather than look at facts that point to a conclusion?

    Romeo, I am currently working on a second novel.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  31. Bahi,

    Read following article to know more about SL’s “genocide”

    http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090411_04

    Comment by Pina Kaludava | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  32. KillRomeoProject – The diaspora is actually quite large and diverse. It’s true that many (perhaps the majority) support the LTTE, but many don’t. The voices of the latter aren’t as loud or prominent – though I feel like it’s finding more ground these days – but don’t make those sorts of silly generalizations. The tamil diaspora is no more a homogenous bloc than, say, the sinhalese are in SL.

    Comment by Anip | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  33. Thanks for this excellent piece of writing. Fact-based rather than that hysterical rant by the once-great Arundhati Roy. This deserves to be published in the UK press as a counterpoint to Roy’s piece. Have you submitted it to the Guardian, Times, Independent etc?

    Comment by Mango | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  34. Mango, it was written as an exclusive for the Times of India, so it belongs to them.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  35. Anip
    // The voices of the latter aren’t as loud or prominent – though I feel like it’s finding more ground these days – but don’t make those sorts of silly generalizations. //

    True. I also heard the voice of latter last evening, right after the soothing sound of Unicorns..

    Comment by Sam | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  36. Thanks for the link, Pina. It further affirms in my mind the value of this discussion on genocide.

    Link to what is occurring in this IDP camps:
    http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/03/post_338.html
    “The lack of consistent international supervision (and monitoring) of the transit sites and so-called “welfare villages” run by the government continue to put the displaced at risk of human rights violations by the security forces. There is no standard individual registration process for the displaced coming out of the Wanni. Although UNHCR, the ICRC and some INGOs and NGOs have been granted limited access to these centers for distribution of assistance, there is still lack of adequate protection safeguards, and the displaced are vulnerable to further serious human rights violations such as extra judicial executions, torture, cruel and inhumane treatment (including sexual and gender based violence), and enforced disappearance. Furthermore, safeguards to ensure the right to a family life is preserved has not been implemented, the lack of systematic registration process in place means family members are being separated. Very little progress has been made on establishing procedures for tracing and reunification of separated families, including for unaccompanied and separated children. Lack of privacy for women in the centers is reported to be a problem – in some centers men and women were compelled to sleep together and there is a lack of private bathing places for women.”

    As I stated in my second post, David, intent is definitely the key issue here. All I was saying is that it is very difficult to CONCLUSIVELY prove intent. Maybe it will be done at some point in the future. But what one can do at present, as I have done, is point to historical events that are genocidal (in that they were coordinated actions intended to inflict harm on the Tamil population purely because of their race). I don’t think it is fair to gloss over these events as “acts of commission and omission”. These are genocidal acts and they point to a long-term genocidal process at work.

    I do think, however, that you were right to bring up the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in the North by the LTTE, and the high death toll incurred in the suppression of the JVP insurrection. These facts make it difficult to disentangle the callousness of the GoSL from the acts deliberately designed to inflict harm on the Tamil people. Indeed, with the media ban imposed on the North it is very difficult to establish with certainty that a genocide is taking place. Ultimately, I am in pursuit of the truth. I am indeed open to the possibility that while acts of genocide have taken place in the past, and that there is a risk of genocide taking place, it has not yet taken place in Sri Lanka.

    But I must ask you, David, have you just assumed that the GoSL and its agents are incapable of genocide and are simply operating under that assumption? Is it not possible that there are trigger-happy members of the Armed forces who derive sadistic pleasure from bombing Tamil civilians simply because they are Tamil? And that a culture of impunity that allows these acts to be prosecuted at will, taken in conjunction with the historical genocidal acts, suggest a genocidal process at work?

    What I have tried to argue is that you cannot simply point to the worst genocides in history (the Holocaust and Rwanda) and use those to negate the occurrence of a genocide in Sri Lanka. You have to really delve into the genocidal process, its root causes, its telltale indicators and risk factors. If you do, I believe there is ample reason to be concerned, at the very least, of a genocidal situation in Sri Lanka.

    Comment by Bahi | April 15, 2009 | Reply

    • Bahi, that AI report does not in anyway back up your claims of sexual abuse, torture, and sterilzation. The latter has not been mentioned anywhere, and the language used by AI makes it clear that the conditions in the camps could make the inmates vulnerable. It does not say that any of these things are taking place.

      No one is claiming that these camps are some sort of star-class hotels — the GoSL welfare system is under severe strain, and a lot of it is brought on by a certain paranoia towards security. That’s true enough, however, you will see similar conditions in refugee camps throughout the 3rd world, even where the UN and NGOs are present. In fact, I’m sure you must be aware that a lot of sexual exploitation and abuse in many of such cmps, particularly in Africa, have come from UN workers themselves.

      Bahi, it hasn’t been conclusively accepted that events in the past were genocidal. I conceded that some actions were consistent with Lemkin’s definition, which isn’t necessarily the accepted definition. Also, you seem to ignore the fact that most of those happened over 20 years ago. Conditions have changed, and you must accept that. Many of the diaspora are stuck in a time warp that froze at the time of their departure from SL, and often their views are coloured by the lense of bitter experience.

      To apply Lemkin’s definition would make every single racial killing or racially motivated crime, even if committed on an individual, one of genocide. That is not realistic.

      “I do think, however, that you were right to bring up the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in the North by the LTTE, and the high death toll incurred in the suppression of the JVP insurrection. These facts make it difficult to disentangle the callousness of the GoSL from the acts deliberately designed to inflict harm on the Tamil people.”

      Quite the opposite, in fact, Bahi. What it does suggest is that the LTTE is racially motivated — the cleansing of the north was of all non-Tamil ethnic groups — while the SL armed forces are not — the latter will willingly kill anyone, regardless of race, if so ordered. Genocide can only be committed — by UN definition — on people of particular religious, ethnic, national (and perhaps sexual) groupings.

      It is also lazy of you to claim that the media in the north prevents you from proving genocide. The ban is a relatively recent order, and there are still plenty of credible reports coming out of the north, none of which even suggest genocide.

      “Ultimately, I am in pursuit of the truth. I am indeed open to the possibility that while acts of genocide have taken place in the past, and that there is a risk of genocide taking place, it has not yet taken place in Sri Lanka.”

      Are you open to removing the word “yet” in your last sentence?

      “But I must ask you, David, have you just assumed that the GoSL and its agents are incapable of genocide and are simply operating under that assumption?”

      No, I haven’t assumed that they are incapable of genocide anymore than I will assume that an adult male is incapable of rape. However, I will presume innocence until evidence proves otherwise. If you’re convinced that genocide is imminent, Bahi, or indeed is taking place as we speak, you must do your best to find real evidence of it. But it is absurd of you to claim such evidence has been found when it hasn’t.

      “Is it not possible that there are trigger-happy members of the Armed forces who derive sadistic pleasure from bombing Tamil civilians simply because they are Tamil? And that a culture of impunity that allows these acts to be prosecuted at will, taken in conjunction with the historical genocidal acts, suggest a genocidal process at work?”

      It’s not impossible. The Army – and in fact armies all over the world – are full of individuals who enjoy killing for the sake of it. It is the nature of war. However, whether these individuals would take extra pleasure in killing members of a particular ethnic group is doubtful. Also there isn’t a culture that allows atrocities to be committed at will. However,it is the nature of armed forces to protect their own. None of this suggests that a genocide is at work. I have clearly pointed out to you instances where even genocidal forces were innocent of genocide. It can be very misleading to attempt to apply a template that will suit an agenda, Bahi. Frankly, and I’m being charitable here, I feel you wish to prove a genocide and are looking at everything through that lense. It is warping your logical thought processes.

      “What I have tried to argue is that you cannot simply point to the worst genocides in history (the Holocaust and Rwanda) and use those to negate the occurrence of a genocide in Sri Lanka.”

      Certainly not, and I’m not attempting to do so. But neither can every atrocity in an ethnic conflict be termed genocide simply on the grounds that it occurred during an ethnic conflict.

      “You have to really delve into the genocidal process, its root causes, its telltale indicators and risk factors. If you do, I believe there is ample reason to be concerned, at the very least, of a genocidal situation in Sri Lanka.”

      Yes, Bahi, I think you should delve deeper, because at the moment you seem to be skimming through such causes, indicators, and factors and picking out the ones that suit you.

      Comment by David Blacker | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  37. Excellent analysis to say the least

    Comment by ranuka | April 16, 2009 | Reply

  38. This deserves to be made into a poster. I mean that in a positive way, in support of the SLA, of course.

    ..”the LTTE is racially motivated — the cleansing of the north was of all non-Tamil ethnic groups — while the SL armed forces are not — the latter will willingly kill anyone, regardless of race, if so ordered.”

    As has been pointed out ad nauseum, the two JVP uprisings prove the non-racial bias of the SLA when ordered to kill. There was little mercy shown to the almost exclusively Singhalese JVP.

    But, internationally, the LTTE ‘genocide’ PR offensive has been very effective because it has not been rebutted in any meaningful sense by GOSL spokespeople.

    Comment by Mango | April 16, 2009 | Reply

  39. ” feel you wish to prove a genocide and are looking at everything through that lense”
    David, I found that statement quite amusing.
    Wouldn’t you say that you are looking through the lense of “terrorism”? I see very little difference.

    Comment by tamilcanadian | April 16, 2009 | Reply

  40. The difference, Tamilcanadian, is that I don’t have to prove terrorism. It has been widely accepted that the LTTE is a terrorist organization, and the almost universal proscription of the group is evidence of that acceptance.

    However, if you had read my comments you would have noticed that I have pointed out that the armed conflict exists within a larger ethnic conflict. The LTTE isn’t only a terrorist group, but it is a terrorist group, nevertheless, and tragically for the Tamil nationalist cause, the latter has been defined and shaped by that terror.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 16, 2009 | Reply

  41. all valid points wrt the horrible bellicosity of the biggest mouths in Brampton, Glen Waverly, Eastham etc. but I will not go along with you where you basically equate the population of tiger occupied “no fire zones” with by-catch, a justifiable collateral price of netting tigers in the bush.

    The symbolic logic of:

    1. Tigers are using human shields, keeping civilians trapped in certain areas.
    2. Tigers are firing on our positions
    3. We know civilians are in the firing zone.
    4. We therefore fire and kill/maim Tigers and civilians.

    It’s not modus ponens nor even a tautology. Am I mucking up some sophisticated logic here?

    Comment by Nayagan | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  42. oh, and speaking as a member of the “tamil diaspora” you lot seem so eager to discuss as a monolithic institution understandable only as a craven cabal of first-world-living arm-chair generals, go out and actually talk to a few. Then tour the major diaspora communities and note the differences from country to country.

    Reading only the random political sentiments (referencing, as a rule, whatever peculiar characteristic which somehow infuses the tamil diaspora with a ghoulish macabre character) that pop up in Kottu, I’d expect my own family to be filled to the brim with slavering lunatics, doing aratis to ak-47s and cordite. But it simply isn’t so. So sad to report.

    Comment by Nayagan | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  43. Nagayan, I don’t believe I’ve ever said that the civilian casualties are acceptable. However, they are inevitable. The SL armed forces themselves have shown more restraint as the offensive closed in on the Tigers. For example, fixed wing airstrikes and offshore naval bombardment have almost completely ceased. The point of this article was to show that a lot of the tactics used by LTTE apologists are in fact exacerbating the situation for the Tamils in Tiger hands. More a case of modus tollens rather than modus ponens, and again, I’m being charitable here.

    I take your point regarding the Tamil diaspora, and the tendency of many Sri Lankans to bloc them all together into this LTTE-supporting mob. It’s not that we don’t understand that opposing voices exist; it’s just that we don’t hear them. Also, this article wasn’t originally written with a SL readership in mind, and so explanation of the diverse points of view in the diaspora was largely unnecessary; also, impossible, given the constraints of space.

    In my defence, I have lived in Germany for several years, and have also visited London and Toronto, where I have relatives amongst both the Sinhalese and Tamil diaspora. I also maintain close contacts with friends in both these communities who are resident in the UK and Australia.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 17, 2009 | Reply

    • Some of you might be interested in this. It’s a fairly objective view of the situation as it stands for the Tamil IDPs.

      Comment by David Blacker | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  44. david,

    Apologize for the tone and implication regarding IDPs. Mr. Laphroaig and Glenlivet were over last night and did not acquit themselves as gentlemen.

    also understand constraints of space and target audience.

    One thing I’m struggling with (as we are here in the states wrt the rarely heard–but certainly not rarely expressed– voices of moderate muslims) is how to treat the phenomenon of the elusive pragmatic tamil diaspora voice, especially those of my generation because it is more important for us to show that we are still rational in the face of previous-generation pressure (the uncles are bitter) and misinformation.
    Complicating factors:
    1. Location–we are here and ‘everything’ is happening over there.
    2. Press Access–I have always held as cardinal truth the description of press freedom in SL being so inadequate as to severely the undermine the credibility of news reporting done by SL papers(there is also a great amount of prejudice in the US reporter community wrt to the validity of foreign hard news reporting)
    3. Fear of loss due to gums flapping one time too many: On the record, I have no family, friends, property or other business interests in Sri Lanka. Off the record, I do have all of those connections, possessions and interests.
    4. MIA–I wish her all the best as a fellow immigrant to the great north american prosperity region but she will never shut up and never stop waxing cryptic in the face of pointed and detailed questions. She does me and every other tamil diaspora member a disservice.

    5. Tokenism. I am more than glad, now, to put myself forward as a token tamil diaspora member to validate the pragmatic security considerations of experts like yourself but will I do it with ease when I know that I’ll just be considered the odd bugger in a van full of hubris-pukers wearing Eelam kits?

    I used to guest-blog for a popular ‘south-asian’ (or “desi” in the states) group blog and every SL-related post drew every crazy cockroach out of the woodwork for a battle royale over maximalist positions that have no place in a pragmatic debate over what should and what will happen.

    I need friends and encouragement–things I don’t see in the Kottu-sphere.

    and for the record, I have disabused most of the “uncles” generation in my family of whatever affinity they might have felt towards Prabs bunch of murderers.

    Comment by Nayagan | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  45. Not to worry, Nayagan, these Scotsmen can be unpredictable.

    Yes, I can understand the difficulties in trying to be in touch and/or involved with the situ in SL whilst in another country. There is also the question of how involved one feels duty-bound to be. I have a good friend from Jaffna, now down in Oz, who seems to feel no such responsibility. But I know many who feel the opposite. When I was living in Germany, I found myself often at a loss at this lack of involvement.

    It maybe this feeling of helplessness that drives many in the diaspora to be so vocal now that such an opportunity has presented itself. However, I don’t think that assuages the responsibility of having been complicit in outsourcing the struggle to the LTTE, and standing by while it destroyed the true cause.

    I hope we’ll see some real involvement from the diaspora in the coming months and years.

    In addition to the lack of press freedoms, I’m sure you must have also noticed the lack of journalistic professionalism and ethics, a point in case being the recent arrest of a Rupavahini defence correspondent suspected of carrying cameras and laptops looted from captured Tiger camps. Of course, he’s been let off with a pat on the back. Luckily, the Army didn’t take such a lenient view, and the liason officer is apparently awaiting court martial.

    Being the odd man out is never easy, so don’t expect too much support in the Lankanosphere. I’ve often been that, and have frequently been heckled (or worse) by the two ends of the spectrum.

    However, I look forward to your comments.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  46. Nagayan (and everyone for that matter),

    Over at groundviews.org, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah has a post that IMHO is really refreshing. He spells out clearly and soberly our present national predicament. And it is in so many ways a heartbreaking one, even for those of us who would celebrate the demise of the LTTE.

    Then he offers us a way forward. A series of steps that are reasoned, principled, humane, and with a little courage and luck, even practicable.

    For me, it brought some welcome light to an otherwise moronic and dispiriting day in the SL blogosphere.

    Comment by rajivmw | April 18, 2009 | Reply

  47. David,

    Thanks for the blog and speaking your mind. It’s refreshing to read articles that aren’t of a polemic nature.

    Why do you think at this point that the government does not allow foreign correspondents into the conflict area?

    Comment by Dee | April 18, 2009 | Reply

  48. David,
    it’s an entertaining article, but unfortunately your argument is mainly an ad hominem one. you talk about Roy’s intellectual laziness instead of giving any real evidence for your claims. this is not your fault. this only points to the fact that we really don’t have media freedom in our country. for example, to counter Roy’s claims of concentration camps, your answer is: “The accusations of genocide and concentration camps remain a figment of fiction, regardless of how many times the lie is repeated.” All you do is to say that it’s not true. where is your evidence? you have none because we don’t know what is actually going on over there. the problem with this war is the lack of transparency. and please don’t give a link to the defence ministry website to support your argument – the propaganda on that website is sickening.

    Comment by J | April 18, 2009 | Reply

  49. Dee, no government really wants the world peeking over its shoulder while it’s conducting something as controversial as war. We saw the same attitude by the US government during the invasion of Iraq — however given the guaranteed press freedoms in the western world, the US had to settle for embedding journalists with military units, thereby controlling info rather than stopping it totally. The Israelis in Gaza went a step further, though not quite as far as the GoSL — again, because of prevailent conditions.

    It’s interesting that the GoSL didn’t switch on this ban overnight, but gradually closed the tap. The lack of determination and professionalism by SL media has also added to the prob. When the SL Army was carrying out ops in Vakarai in the east, there was no ban, but the GoSL made it harder for journalists to do their job. However al Jazeera was able to give actual battlefield reports, with their people ducking bullets. Even today, the ban is on independent media — guys like Rupavahini seem to have no prob in access, obviously.

    However, I agree that the media ban is counterproductive, particularly within the IDP camps. But this GoSL has allowed itself to be swayed by a faction that is particularly paranoid of the media and INGOs.

    J, I’m not sure how I am to prove that somethings is NOT happening! Isn’t the onus to prove something IS happening? As I explained to Nagayan, there was a very tight space constraint on the article, and so it was impossible to refute the concentration camp allegations as well as the genocide accusations, all within 800 words. However, I think I’ve done so satisfactorily in my subsequent comments on this blog. Please read the University Teachers for Human Rights report I’ve linked to in comment 45, as it gives a clear and objective look at the IDP/welfare camps — why not see if you can find anything there about sexual slavery/abuse, torture, murder, disapearances, or genocide. Perhaps we can talk more once there is some indication of the above.

    And please don’t link to TamilNet as proof of genocide, for the same reasons you’ve given above! FYI, I rarely visit Defence.lk either, except when they run interviews or upload pix and footage.

    Comment by David Blacker | April 18, 2009 | Reply

    • This piece gives an interesting look at why the diaspora is doing (and not doing) what it is.

      Comment by David Blacker | April 19, 2009 | Reply

  50. Following piece too interesting

    http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/16905

    Comment by Pina Kaludava | April 19, 2009 | Reply

  51. Genocide ? my ass….with Tamil folks living through out Sri lanka running business’s & employed professionally ? How can anyone say Genocide ! When,lt’s very clear….ltte has become coward’s… by hiding behind women & children ? Is this how tamil diaspora expalin yourselves folks ? Give me a break ! Jaffna folks have this “chip on there shoulder” (we are better than everyone else) BS, get over it ! You treat Upcountry Tamils,Colombo Tamils & Tamils who dont give crap abt. Eelam BS ! But, let this be a lesson to you Diaspora “Ya can fool people sometimes! but, not all the time “

    Comment by Rajaratasurfer | April 21, 2009 | Reply

  52. Strange as it may be in the modern world, we at last have a success story in the war against terror.
    The sovereignty of Sri Lanka is complete and rebuilding can begin.
    Sri Lanka are you ready?
    Go to Sri Lanka, every one!

    Comment by Go to Sri Lanka | April 22, 2009 | Reply

  53. DB,

    I believe Tamil Diaspora thought “they can Fool people sometimes, but, not all the time” Now, this NFZ hostage situation is CLEARLY in ltte hands…go figure.. this is’nt rocket science ? Ltte surrenders….those poor Tamil folks can cross into freedom & end the suffering period folks ! Ltte prologning this sad human suffering to save that idiot VP & ltte terrorist butts. How thoughtfull of him, the savior of Tamils ? They are nothing but, illbred lowlife terrorist !

    Do you know why Dayamaster & George, 2 Propaganda chiefs are the only ltte Highrun to surrender ? This sounds so bizarre David ? Why didnt the other top Tiger’s comeout ? Strange !

    Anyway mate good post ; )

    Comment by Rajaratasurfer | April 24, 2009 | Reply

  54. Ahh thanks for the article and i know this point is really extremely trivial but that top picuture of the tamil protestors, they are protesting in Brisbane, not sydney.

    Comment by ignore this post | April 25, 2009 | Reply

  55. Friends,

    Please read following article as well.

    http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/04/fools.html

    The most striking part of the article as follows

    “There are LTTE operatives within these LTTE camps. We were approached by one who warned that the whole of Sri Lanka would burn soon ! There were several others- men and women- who could be easily identified as LTTE operatives. I am sure there are hundreds of LTTRs roaming free (the silent cells) outside these camps. Is there an alternative to high security and vigil being maintained in these camps? Who will be answerable, if people get killed in these camps,? If it happens, would not the government be accused of mass murder by the very same people who are complaining about the barbed wire fences and high security?

    A UNICEF officer (a foreigner) working in this camp tried to encourage us to be critical of the government, when everything we saw and heard suggested otherwise. His Sri Lankan counterpart – a Tamil, was aghast at what he was attempting. It is at this moment that I understood why the government was suspicious of INGOs.”

    Comment by Pina Kaludava | April 25, 2009 | Reply

  56. Blacker when is ur next book coming along? im sure it must be a good factual read,hope u include a chapter abt the heroic stand @ the jaffna fort in 90′

    btw,did u happen to know one capt jayantha kotelawala who was at jaffna fort and who was supposed to be a very good officer,later on read that he was discharged for some petty offence while on a schol to the USA so the papers said,any officers who were trapped there in jaffna fort are they still in service or retired?

    Comment by citizen lanka | April 29, 2009 | Reply

  57. Tamil tigers are freedom Fighters Sri Lankan government is torturing, raping, killing the Tamil civilians furthermore using all kind of medias to do bogus propaganda such as you see here.
    If Sri Lankan government really cares for Tamils then why it bans the international indepenent medias from war zone?
    If Sri lankan government is not doing war zone, the government could have allow the international indepenent medias into the warzone as soon as we Diaspora told this more than 6 months ago but untill now journalists are not allowed. why? what are you hiding?

    Comment by William | May 4, 2009 | Reply

  58. “btw, can you identify any of these reports of sterilization and sexual slavery at the IDP camps?”

    There are now reports of rape and other wrongs occurring in the IDP camps.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/631020

    Comment by Anip | May 8, 2009 | Reply

  59. Anip, that video does show some allegations that hint at rape. But it’s a far cry, I’m sure you’ll agree, from the claims of sterilization and sexual slavery that have been made. In the one case brought up in the video, it seems steps were taken to prevent such abuses recurring. About the dead bodies lying around, well, I dunno. It doesn’t show any.

    Comment by David Blacker | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  60. Thanks for pointing out MIA. Now married to Ben Brewer, son of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.and with access to the Seagram fortune, she claims these LTTE claims of genocide and separate homeland. It is now time for people like her to change from the ‘separatist talk’ and work towards reconciliation.
    link to NYtimes article http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/outside-sri-lanka-tamil-diaspora-not-ready-to-surrender/?scp=3&sq=sri%20lanka&st=cse

    Comment by T from USA | May 20, 2009 | Reply

  61. So the bleeding hearts who were howling for a cease-fire have now stopped the screaming, even though thousands of tamil civillians are still in extreme distress?
    It obviously wasn’t abt them, but to save the now dead tiger top honchos.
    Lte’s wait and see if these pro-tiger elements will even try to help the civillians in the camps. It most certainly will not happen.

    Comment by TropicalStorm | May 24, 2009 | Reply

  62. @Citizen Lanka: I read your comment and I agree as an officer my father Captain Kotalawala (Later Colonel) was discharged for a “petty” offense. He passed away via a vehicle accident in 2000. Years later it makes me wonder about the injustice faced by one good ‘soldier’ faced in comparison to the vast and varied levels of offenses committed by both the military institution that claims to be the warriors of our nation and the politicians of Sri Lanka.

    I am not a political person but I am a patriot of not the Sinhalese or the Tamils or the Muslims… but all Sri Lankans. I will never forget a lesson my father taught me during his short service in the SL Army… Tamil/Muslim/Sinhala are titles that are only skin and mind deep. At the end if the day we are all human and have the same blood, skin and flesh. we are no different to one another and this war was unnecessary.

    So if you ask me am i glad the government won the war? yes although I am anti MR and anti SL Army. do in condone the dire conditions and treatment the tamil refugees are faced with currently no!

    I condemn the LTTE leaders for using human shields and the human crimes committed not only to Sinhalese but to the whole Sri Lankan society including the Tamils, while they secured their offspring and loved ones overseas away from all the violence and trauma.

    I condemn the Sri Lankan Govt for their self gaining political agenda and for the crimes committed may it me war related, political related and mafia related. They too are no better than the latter group i have condemned as they too send their unruly offspring overseas thus showing no concern in improving educational requirements and other necessities the country is deprived of.

    And finally the SL Army….. I am impressed by the fact that they won the war which means it is an end to VP’s reign of terrorist campaigning over our tiny nation. However I am vehemently disgusted by their politically influenced agenda which clearly shows no humane values.

    At the end of the day people we are all human and people as long as we divide our self with ethnic titles we cannot overcome these political bullies and not move forward as one nation… coz I repeat my father’s strong words… after we are stripped off all differentiating beliefs, religions and cultures and ethnic claims…we are all the same.

    Comment by JK Child of OZ | February 1, 2010 | Reply

  63. JK, all military action follows a political agenda, here and al over the world.

    Comment by David Blacker | February 1, 2010 | Reply

  64. Agreed.

    Comment by JK Child of OZ | February 2, 2010 | Reply

  65. @ JK Child of OZ ,i just saw ur comments as i didnt visit Davids blog for sometime now,you should be really proud of your dad as I was a kid in jaffna in the 1980’s and till early 90’s and i very well remember the admiration the civillians had for the Capt Kotalawala at Jaffna Fort,when hee was there the discriminatory shelling was stopped and he had a good rapport with the citizens commitee and he even had talks with the ltte chaps,i was a keep follower of events at tht time and once he even walked out unamred from the Fort to talk to some fellow regarding peace initiatives
    Did your dad talk about his time at Jaffna Fort and the hardships faced by him and the men,what did he say about the town civillians?

    @ Blacker,mate write a book like Anthony Beevor or Cornelius Ryan (they wrote of the 2nd ww),im sure you will succeed mate!

    Comment by Citizen Lanka | July 19, 2010 | Reply

  66. […] David Blacker: “Lies and a Tiger — How a Diaspora is Killing its Own,” 12 April 2009, https://blacklightarrow.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/lies-and-a-tiger-how-a-diaspora-is-killing-its-own/ […]

    Pingback by The Limits of State Sovereignty and R2P: Gareth Evans in Colombo, Mid-2007 | Thuppahi's Blog | January 21, 2017 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: