[The horrific scenes of state violence perpetrated by Sinhalese-dominated government forces against Tamil civilians in the North-East of Sri Lanka between 2005-2010 was brought to my attention by a channel 4 documentary called ‘The Killing Fields’ (visit 40D to watch). Otherwise, all information about the situation has been gathered through research and talking with Tamil friends.]
The mass genocide of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka is fairly unknown and rarely discussed by mainstream news channels. There has been limited media coverage of the war crimes inflicted by the Sri Lankan armed forces on Tamils between 2005-2010; why is this?
Could this provide a clue?
“During this period Britain approved arms export licences worth a total of £18 million for armaments including armoured cars, machine-gun components and semi-automatic pistols.” (1)
Many hundreds of thousands of Tamils have been murdered, tortured, abducted, raped, displaced (and re-displaced), indiscriminately bombed, arbitrarily and indefinitely detained without trial, deprived of essential goods, food, medicine, education and public services and otherwise persecuted by the Sri Lankan armed forces and government-sponsored paramilitaries for essentially not being Sinhalese Buddhists. (4)
Since independence from British rule in 1948, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has done everything they can to inflict stark conditions on life intended to cause the physical, political, economic and cultural destruction of the Tamil population. There is currently only one Tamil politician in the GoSL, and very few, if any, Tamils in the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Tamils are commonly victimised and discriminated in the Sinhalese-dominated areas of the South. Places of worship are regularly destroyed or defaced by Sinhalese nationalists, and Tamil women are sometimes sexually attacked and assaulted by Sinhalese soldiers.
In the North-East of the island the paralysing effect of incessant economic blockades, confinement and military attacks by the Sri Lankan armed forces has seen 150,000 homes destroyed and 700 temples damaged (often because of Sri Lankan Air Force bombings); leaving 6,000 widows, 4,000 orphan’s and whole villages depopulated in a period of just 4 years (4).
Why are British news papers and television stations choosing not to report these atrocities (and yet are continually condemning Iran for human rights violations)?
With a bit of investigation the answer becomes evident; British complicity and involvement in the Sri Lankan armed forces (8). If we look back historically, it’s not surprising to discover this sad state of affairs is the legacy of British colonialism. From a historical perspective, understanding colonialisms relationship with geo-political interests at play in the modern Anglo-American imperial world concerns recognising two factors; the arms trade and energy (oil). Britain is selling arms to ‘allies’ (like Israeli and Sri Lanka) and attempting to control the flow of oil from ‘hostile enemies’ (like Iran and Venezuela).
In 1953, the British secret services (and the CIA) overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minster of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in a coup to restore BP’s control of Iranian oil – Mosaddegh had previously nationalised the oil company. In order to regain power a plot was deployed to arrest, put on trial, and then replace Mosaddegh with the British educated Shah of Iran. Washington and London continually supplied arms to the unpopular Shah, and the CIA-trained SAVAK, his repressive secret police force. Britain and Iran have ‘enjoyed’, for want of a better word, a very strained relationship ever since.
While those opposed to Western hegemony – who take an independent stand against capitalism (often places with lots of oil like Iran and Venezuela) – are smeared and attacked, Britain is currently known to be doing shady arms deals with dodgy military regimes in bed with us; the states of Israel and Sri Lanka, both declared allies in the ‘War on Terror’.
“Mr. Werritty visited Iran on several occasions and was so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service – Mossad – that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government. The disclosure that he – and Dr Fox – had met Britain’s most senior official in Israel on more occasions than previously thought, underlines their interest in the region.” (6)
“Mr. Werritty, who holds no official government role, acted as Dr Fox’s personal envoy to Sri Lanka, arranging his meetings with senior ministers.” (5)
This is what the British government doesn’t want you to know. Having once been part of the British Empire, the Sri Lankan (Sinhalese controlled) government still has a good relationship with the political and business establishment in Britain. After 26 years of state violence against Tamils, Sri Lanka has still become ‘one of the fastest growing economies in the world’ – and Britain wants to capitalise.
They also don’t want us to know that the arms trade is under scrutiny. British weapons and parts have been used in the brutal killings and persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka. “According to government figures, in the last quarter of last year Whitehall approved arms exports to Sri Lanka worth £1.4m, mainly components for communications equipment”(2).
“Closer scrutiny of UK arms exports is being called for by four Parliamentary Select Committees following confirmation by the UK Government that Israeli weapons systems, used in the Gaza conflict, almost certainly contained British-built components. The Committees on Arms Export Controls publish their annual report today which includes scrutiny of export licences granted in 2008 and examines the policy and enforcement of UK arms export controls. The Committees were concerned that UK military equipment and weapons, exported to Sri Lanka during the ceasefire between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE, may have been used against the civilian population when hostilities escalated in 2006.” (3)
In 2009, Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist organization supporting legal efforts, brought a model indictment to the United States Department of Justice. It charges U.S citizen and Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and U.S permanent resident and Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, with 12 counts of genocide and 106 counts of war crimes and torture, in violation of U.S domestic statutes.
Taken from the document ‘Grand Jury Indictment for Genocide’ (page 486) proposed to the U.S Department of Justice, the list below details just a few of the war crimes committed in one week during 2008 (4).
“1530. September 23, 2008: Jaffna
In the areas close to the A-9 road in Kaithadi in the Thenmarachchi region of Jaffna district around 2:10 p.m., GoSL controlled paramilitaries or SLA (Sri Lankan Army) soldiers murdered by gunfire 43-year old Tamil civilian male Ponnaiah Kunesekaram.
1532. September 26, 2008: Jaffna islets
In the areas of Mankumpaan, Vealanai in the Jaffna islets after 9:00 p.m. SLN soldiers or GoSL controlled paramilitaries abducted, broke the arms and legs of, bound the arms and legs of, inflicted deep wounds with sharp weapons, and then murdered by gunfire 54-year old Tamil civilian male Appaiah Sritharan.
1533. September 27, 2008: Kilinochchi
In the areas of Iraththinapuram in Kilinochchi district around 12:15 p.m. SLAF (Sri Lankan Air Force) bombing targeting Tamil civilian settlements murdered 1 Tamil civilian and severely injured 8 Tamil civilians, of whom 4 were children, including an 8- month old, a 9-month old, and a 2-year old.
1534. September 28, 2008: South: Ruwanwela
In the areas of Ruwanwela Police Division in the South, GoSL controlled paramilitaries or SLA soldiers in a white van abducted and then disappeared 28-year old Tamil civilian male Puvendradas Sankar.
1535. October 1, 2008: Kilinochchi
In the areas of Kilinochch town close to A-9 road in Kilinochchi district around 10:30 a.m., SLAF bombing targeting Tamil civilian settlements murdered 2 and severely injured 13, of whom 3 were children, and destroyed 19 houses.
Names of the injured:
- Paranthaman Gowry,
- Tharmn Kokulavasan,
- Ramaiah Vijayatharsini,
- Chelliah Yogarani,
- Jebamalai Indrani,
- Aroljothi Arokiya,
- Kantharooban Subajini,
- Kandasamy Saththiyagnanathevy,
- Varnakulasingham Rajendran,
- Chellar Subramaniyam,
- Chelvanayagam Perumal,
- Vigneswaran Kamalathevi,
- Velu Ladchumippillai,
The estimated number of Tamils killed by Sri Lankan armed forces is said to be in the region of 100,000; but no-one can be sure of the numbers since U.N staff and representatives were forced to leave in September 2008. Meanwhile the Sri Lankan government has tried it’s very best to ensure a virtual media blackout; they have evidently succeeded.
In effect, the ethnic cleansing of Tamils from Sri Lanka’s North-Eastern provinces has been nothing short of a genocide ignored by the U.N council and the Western Media. The case must go to the International Criminal Court (ICC). A spokesperson from TAG said:
“Attempting to file legal action against Sri Lanka’s alleged war-criminals in all available judicial forums across the world is a prudent and practical step to find justice to the North East Tamils. While there will likely be setbacks, the training and experience gained in understanding the criminal procedures and nuances of different legal systems and engaging with local attorneys will help the current and growing generation of Tamils to make progress towards ultimately bringing the killers of at least 40,000 Tamils to justice.” (7)