Ilankai Tamil Sangam

28th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

An Appeal to the International Community

Part II

by Nadodi, December 4, 2007

The view of the government and the supporting chauvinist forces is to force their own solution down the throats of a subjugated Tamil nation. International leaders who support the President are only encouraging him in doing so.

Part 1

When the 1983 Pogrom took place, President Jayawardena said "I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people. Now, we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion. The more you put pressure in the North, the happier the Sinhala people will be here. Really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhalese will be happy" in an interview with the UK's Daily Telegraph on July 11th 1983. That was his open declaration of war with Tamils. Hardly a statement that should come from one who calls himself the President of the whole country!

Since the mandate given by the Tamil people in 1976 to seek a separate State, from past experience during communal attacks and State terror, negotiations and entering into pacts which were unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhalese leaders, the youth did not think that the elders would be able to deliver on the mandate.

They formed militant groups to fight against State terror and to liberate the Tamils. Eventually five major groups were formed. Each group had a handful of youth, and did not have arms to even have one gun for each person.

The militant groups fled to India where they received training and some arms from a sympathetic Indra Gandhi Government. The Sinhalese government increased army camps in Tamil residential areas and designated many areas as High Security Zones. The people of these areas lost their livelihoods, which were mainly fishing and agriculture. (By 1995 the number of such camps had increased to 205). The strength of what was till then a ceremonial army of a little over 10,000 was increased to 100,000. Restictions on freedom of movement of the people stifled the economic activity of the Tamil civilian population.

A f ew at a time, the freedom fighters returned from India. In 1985 the army massacred 70 Tamil civilians in a Northern town where they were lined up and shot dead. The major militant group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (aka LTTE) killed Sinhalese civilians in Anuradhapura in retaliation. It was the first time they killed Sinhalese civilians. India intervened, and the first ceasefire was imposed as a prelude to Indian-supervised peace talks in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan between July 8th to 13th, 1985. All Tamil political parties and militant groups took part. Tamils jointly put forward proposals calling them the Tamil Aspirations. There were four -

  1. Recognise that Tamils are a nation. (This is a matter of fact, and there shouldn't have been any argument about it).
  2. Recognise the existence of a Tamil homeland. (This was implicitly accepted in the two pacts signed with Sinhalese leaders of the time in 1957 and 1965, and later unilaterally abrogated by them, as well as government moving and people going on their own to those areas in times of trouble.
  3. Tamils have the right of self-determination. (According to the covenants of the UN Tamils have all the attributes of a nation, and therefore have the right to self-determination).
  4. All Tamils living in the island should get citizenship rights. (This refers to the up-country Tamils. This has since been settled to a great extent.)

The Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka turned down all the requests and the talks failed.

The Sinhala government's scorched earth policy in Tamil areas became explicit in the burning of paddy fields and forests, the knocking off of coconut and palmyra palm crowns by artillery, and cutting those productive trees down to build bunkers. The economic boycott of Tamil areas intensified. Foreign mercenaries participated in bombing attacks by the Sinhala government forces. The number of Tamil civilians killed by government forces ran into thousands. The International Community was fed with misinformation and false propaganda.

In 1987 a blockade of food, fuel and medicines to Tamil areas took place, driving hundreds of thousands of Tamils into starvation. A massive offensive by air, sea and land, including the bombing of temples, designated as 'safe areas,' took place. Wanton destruction of houses, hospitals, schools, places of worship and infrastructure by indiscriminate bombing, shelling and strafing resulted in thousands of civilian deaths. Torture and rape prevailed. Cordon and search and restrictions on movement took place. Offenders in the armed forces were not punished, and sometimes were promoted and the few fines imposed on them by courts were paid by the government. This created a climate of impunity for the army and police, which prevails to this day. More than 4,000 youths were taken hostage, and Tamils were used on a large scale as human shields to protect the advancing Sinhalese army.

A food flotilla from India to Tamil areas was turned back and India made a token airdrop of food.

None of the seven core UN Human Rights treaties was complied with. The International Community turned a blind eye. On July 29th Indian Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayawardena of Sri Lanka signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord without the agreement of the other party to the conflict, the Tamils. One important feature was the explicit recognition of the Tamil Homeland.

An Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) landed in Jaffna, ostensibly to keep peace, but in fact to disarm the militant Tamil groups. After what they did to the Tamil civilians, they were nicknamed the "Innocent People Killing Force."

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution to implement the Accord was passed in Parliament in August, but remains largely unimplemented.

The LTTE,having said that it was not in agreement with the Accord but would accept it, started surrendering their weapons, stating that in doing so it was handing over the security of the Tamils to India. A senior LTTE leader and Central Committee member, Thileepan died fasting in an effort to get proper implementation of the Accord. India seemed unable or unwilling to enforce implementation. The other militant groups more or less handed over most of their weapons.

In 1988 the Indian Navy arrested in mid-sea 14 LTTE fighters including two area commanders, bringing communication equipment from India, though they had been granted amnesty. When they were forcibly being taken to be handed over to the Sri Lankan government, they swallowed cyanide capsules and 12 of them died. The LTTE stopped surrendering arms, and the IPKF- LTTE war started. More than 100,000 IPKF forces saturated the Northeast. They killed over 7.000 civilians, raped thousands and destroyed much property. The IPKF suffered over 1,200 killed and over 2,000 wounded during the war.

Mr. Premadasa was elected President of Sri Lanka and vowed to send the IPKF back to India. The Northeastern Provincial Council elections were held and Perumal, a member of one of the ex-militant groups was installed as Chief Minister with the assistance of India.

In1989 Premadasa and the LTTE agreed on a cease-fire and decided to request the withdrawal of IPKF.

In 1990 Premadasa began talks with the LTTE and the IPKF completed its withdrawal in March. However, Premadasa failed to abide by several agreements with the LTTE and talks failed. Aerial bombings, naval attacks and artillery attacks by the State forces resumed. A new economic embargo on72 items including food, medicine, toiletries, and even school requisites and other essentials was imposed. This by itself is a war crime.

The EPRLF Provincial government unilaterally declared independence and was dismissed. Perumal and many of his close associates took refuge in India and are still there at the expense of the India.

In1991 Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister was assassinated and it was blamed on the LTTE.

In 1993 President Premadasa was assassinated. Although the LTTE was alleged to have been responsible, Premadasa's son stated on national TV that LTTE did not do it.

In the run-up to the 1994 general elections, Chandrika Kumaratunga catalogued the problems faced by Tamils and promised to bring "Peace at any Cost." She mentioned that Tamils faced so many difficulties in Sri Lanka that over 800,000 had fled the country and over one million were displaced, many of them several times. She was elected Prime Minister. At the subsequent presidential elections she also canvassed on a Peace Platform and won. The Liberation Tigers declared a unilateral ceasefire and called on the government for peace talks, the first of several times they did so. After an exchange of over 40 letters between the President and the leader of the Liberation Fighters, a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed. It provided for a notice of abrogation of 72 hours.

In 1995 four rounds of talks took place. The government delegation was made up of bureaucrats and personal friends of Mrs. Kumaratunga, none of whom had any political experience. The government side emphasized that a political solution should be discussed, while the Liberation Fighters were concerned with a return to normalcy of the living conditions of the civilian population. Little progress was made on either issue, and the government failed to implement some promises made during the talks. Finally, the Liberation fighters gave a three week notice of abrogation of the ceasefire (despite the agreement calling for 72 hours) , extended by a further two weeks at the request of the government. At the end of five weeks the Liberation Fighters attacked Trincomalee harbour and the army led an all out assault on Jaffna. Mrs. Kumaratunga proposed a vague 'union of regions' as a political solution to the conflict, but did not ask the Liberation Fighters for their input. These proposals were later watered down due to strong opposition by both inside and outside her party.

The army took over the entire peninsula of Jaffna, during with most of the population fled. Eventually, some civilians returned to Jaffna, while others fled to the mainland district of Vanni, and others to India. Large scale disappearances were caused by the army. The blockade of Vanni was tightened. American Green Berets started training the army. The armed forces captured large parts of Vanni but were later driven out.

In 2000 the Liberation Fighters captured the largest and most fortified army camp at Elephant Pass and moved in to take the Jaffna peninsula. Their advance was halted by advice from India.

Norway tried to facilitate peace talks. The Liberation Fighters again commenced a unilateral ceasefire. Chandrika was re-elected President. Discussions about peace talks made no progress and the ceasefire ended because of repeated attacks by the armed forces.

In 2001 the Liberation Fighters attacked Katunayake International Airport and destroyed some civilian and air force planes. An important feature of this attack is that by design, not a single civilian or passenger was killed.

In 2002 the United National Party (UNP) won the elections and Ranil Wickramasinghe became Prime Minister. The Liberation Fighters declared another unilateral ceasefire. Under facilitation of the Norwegian Government, a ceasefire agreement (CFA) was signed in February on the basis of the balance of power of both sides, and to bring normalcy to the lives of the people of Sri Lanka. Several clauses of the CFA were not implemented subsequently, despite being pointed out by the Liberation Fighters. Peace talks commenced on Sept. 16th 2002 in Thailand. Seven rounds of talks were held, and at the talks held in Oslo, both sides agreed to "explore the possibility of a federal solution with the right of self-determination." This was a major concession on the part of the Liberation Fighters who had all along demanded a separate state.

After seven rounds of unfruitful talks, the Liberation Fighters pulled out, on the grounds that neither the conditions of the CFA were observed, nor matters agreed at talks. A group of potential international donors met in Tokyo and promised a grant of $4.5 billion if peace was achieved. An initial round of talks of these donors had been held in Washington, but though the Sinhalese government took part, the Liberation Fighters were not invited on the flimsy excuse that the US had proscribed them. This was an unnecessary irritation. If the location was a problem, the talks could have been held in another location.

It had been agreed that an Interim Administration should be set up in the Tamil homelands pending a final agreement, since one has not been reached despite over five decades of talks, agreements reached and unilaterally broken by the governments of both major Sinhalese parties.

President Kumaratunga had suggested an interim administration in which the Liberation Fighters would hold the majority for ten years. Due to a change of government, the suggestion was dropped. The UNP government of Prime Minister delayed its own political proposal and kept speaking of an "international safety net" for its actions. Finally the government submitted a proposal, which did not meet the minimum Tamil requirements and was rejected. After a few months, the Liberation Fighters submitted an Interim Self-Governing Authority for five years in which they would hold a majority. They were prepared to negotiate on their proposal.

Any one of these proposals, or all of them, could have been the basis of negotiations. Instead, Sinhala chauvinist parties started an unfair propaganda that the proposal of the Liberation Fighters would lead to separation. President Kumaratunga dissolved the government, and at the next general election the President's party garnered a majority and Mahinda Rajapakse was made Prime Minister. When President Kumaratunga's term ended, Mahinda Rajapakse was elected President. He attracted 17 members of the opposition UNP to crossover by enticing them with ministries and money. He formed the largest cabinet in the World with 108 Ministers of one kind or other, such as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ministers without portfolio. He appointed three of his brothers to very important positions, and it is estimated that more than 80% of the budgeted amounts come under their combined purview. It is alleged that nearly 150 of his relatives have been given top positions in the administration.

In 2004 the UNP government engineered a split in the Liberation Fighters when a top fighter from the East, Karuna, split with the main body. Regional allegiance was used as the excuse, but mainly because he was unable to answer to his leader for some financial irregularities. It suited the government to encourage the split, and his people carried on atrocities in government-controlled areas under the very nose and connivance of the armed forces. Karuna recently was given a false diplomatic passport and the government obtained a visa to UK for him using that passport. According to press reports, he remitted Rs. 500 million of ill-gotten money to the UK. His wife and children also found some way of proceeding to the UK before him. Currently, he has been detained by the UK government for entering the UK on a false passport.

The second in command who has taken over, is supposed to be more pliant to the current government's schemes. Members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) supervising the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) have expressed alarm and grave concern over the rising civilian casualties in government-controlled areas where this group operates with impunity. The CFA contained provisions that paramilitaries would not be allowed to carry arms in government-controlled territory.

While paying lip service to wanting to arrive at a political solution, and wanting to negotiate with the Liberation Fighters, President Rajapakse increased the defence spending for 2007 by more that 27% over that for 2006. The budget for defence for 2008 is a further increase by 40% over 2007. The President, similar to the stated purpose of his predecessors before him, wants to" liberate the Tamils from the clutches of the Liberation fighters!" As if anybody asked him to do so.
Ex- President Mrs Kumaratunga had at one time spoken about federalism. Ex-Prime Minister Wickramsinghe's negotiating team had agreed to "explore a Federal System with self-determination." But now no one even mentions the word "Federal."

President Mrs. Kumaratunga nominated Mahinda Rajpakse as presidential candidate and got his confirmation that he will continue the peace process, will support a federal solution, and will implement the PTOMS agreement signed with the Liberation Fighters after prolonged negotiations as the basis for distributing tsunami aid in the Northeast.

President Rajapakse, his brothers, the Prime Minister and some of his other ministers have threatened to eliminate "terrorism" and kill the leader of the Liberation Fighters. They think they have liberated the East and are taking the war to the North! Never mind that a CFA is nominally in force!

Why carry on with the farce of a CFA? My view is that it is done to prevent the involvement of World governments in the peace process. The government has already frozen the assets of the main Tamil charitable organisation, one which carried out projects for the government itself, INGOS and world organisations. This organisation was given an award by President Kumaratunga for the excellence of work done on tsunami relief. President Rajapakse is being asked to ban this charity as well as the Liberation Fighters and abrogate the CFA, both by his own party and some chauvinist supporters.

Though there is a CFA on paper, war has progressed with intensity never before seen. Many Human Rights organisations, the World Bank and NGOs have issued statements critical of the government. Some of these were quoted on the Sangam's website on Nov.13th 2007.

The President appointed an All Party Representative Conference (APRC) to supposedly come up with a consensus political proposal. The 22 Tamil Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance, who were elected overwhelmingly from the Tamil Homelands, were not even invited to attend! The APRC was to have presented its report at the end of 2006. Every time that the APRC was ready to present the report, it has been postponed by the President for one reason or another.

Those who are interested in getting details of the atrocities of the armed forces and paramilitaries committed on Tamil civilians from 1956 to August 2007 can get details from the appeal made by the Tamil Center of Human Rights to the sixth Session of the UN Human Rights Commission held in Geneva.

A summary is given below.

Arrest and torture Disappeared Killings Rapes Injured Displaced*
116,966 26,840 56,153 12,507 63,565 2,780,009

* Each time a person was displaced it has been counted as one.

Only about 20% of the disappeared persons have been found.

It should be clear to those who suggest that suggesting negotiations under these circumstances is not at all possible. The view of the government and the supporting Chauvinist forces is to force their own solution down the throats of a subjugated Tamil nation. International leaders who support the President are only encouraging him in doing so. Those who really advocate democracy and justice should enforce a solution as they have done elsewhere, to ensure Total Equality, Justice and fair play with Dignity for all Nations in the island . A negotiated solution is only a day dream. Surely all International leaders cannot be fooled all the time!.