Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Bruce Fein's Lecture in India

by Tamils Against Genocide, February 7, 2009

Displaying copies of the 1000-page indictment document he had prepared, Mr. Bruce Fein observed that Gotabhaya Rajapaksae was an American citizen, and Sarath Fonseka was a U.S. greencard holder and therefore they could be tried in the USA for extrajudicial killings they were complicit in committing. "Irrespective of the nationality of the victim or the villain, cases of extrajudicial killings can be tried in the US courts, and I hope the criminal prosecution against the genocide will provide the launching pad for the civil rights of the Tamil people," he said. 

Bruce FeinBruce Fein, former U.S. Deputy Associate Attorney General and currently counsel for the US-based group Tamils Against Genocide, addressed a select gathering of media persons and intellectuals organized by the Max Foundation in Chennai on January 23, 2009.

A set of 5 videos of his speech is available for viewing on YouTube.






Notes on Fein's lecture taken by an attendee:

Dr. Ezhilan, President of the Max Foundation that organized the meeting spoke about the need for Indians and the International Community to react to the genocide as human beings,  by displaying support and sympathy towards the Eelam Tamils. "The voice to save the Tamils should not be reduced to the voice of the Tamils alone. It should be the voice of any humanist, any human rights defender across the world," he said. Paying tributes to Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the Sunday Leader who was assassinated last month, Dr. Ezhilan pointed out that the Government of Sri Lanka sought to crush any voice of dissent, and if its powers were left unchecked it could annihilate the entire Tamil people on the island. 

Displaying copies of the 1000-page indictment document he had prepared, Mr. Bruce Fein observed that Gotabhaya Rajapaksae was an American citizen, and Sarath Fonseka was a U.S. greencard holder and therefore they could be tried in the USA for extrajudicial killings they were complicit in committing. "Irrespective of the nationality of the victim or the villain, cases of extrajudicial killings can be tried in the US courts, and I hope the criminal prosecution against the genocide will provide the launching pad for the civil rights of the Tamil people," he said. 

The Tamils Against Genocide counsel also outlined how he would prove "intent" of genocide. He pointed out that Sri Lanka was a unique nation whose history was the history of cultural genocide, and how much of the restraint was lifted after the British left the island. The myths of the Mahavamsa say that Sri Lanka belongs to no one but the Sinhalese, and the text celebrates kings for slaughtering Tamils. Secondly, the teachings of Dharmapala, celebrate the purity of the Aryan race and establish the idea of racial supremacy. Because Dharmpala is as sacred to the Sinhalese as Jesus to the Christians, a notion of supremacy has been entrenched in them. This legacy is being continued by Sinhalese Buddhist monks. Every Buddhist classroom in the South is an instruction in genocide. Mr.Fein also pointed out that this was one of the reasons why Buddhist monks launched protests against peace on the island and continuously agitated against the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) from 2002-2008. 

He claimed that the trajectory of politics on the island has also been dictated by these religious and chauvinist elements . Those politicians who wanted to yield a little to the Tamils, in terms of rights or protection, were assassinated. After the assassination of the first president, nothing to safeguard the Tamils was ever implemented by the suceeding generations of leaders. At least during the civil rights movement in the United States, we had Whites who would openly say that the oppression of the Blacks was bad. But in Sri Lanka, there is only pure silence, he said. 

Mr. Fein also compared the Black July of 1983 with today's deplorable situation. In July 1983, 4000 people were massacred in a state-sponsored carnage that took place over four days and about 500,000 people were displaced. But today, we cannot point out to any single incident; on the other hand, genocide is taking place every single day, he said, adding that all instances from November 2005 to December 2008 had been documented. "War is not genocide, so we have not taken into account the number of people who died fighting the army, and we have been careful to not even taken into account the numbe of civilians who died in the crossfire." he said. 

In this three year period under consideration, there have been 3000 extrajudicial killings, which works out to an average of 3 civilians being killed every single day, Mr.Fein said. There has been no investigation or prosecution. The absence of action in the aftermath is a proof of genocide, he said. He added that there were 189 military camps in the Tamil areas under Government control, as a result, nobody could wiggle their fingers without the Government's knowledge. These killings have to be ascribed to the Government because it takes place in Government-controlled areas, he said. Gotabhaya and Fonseka are aware of who committed these crimes, but they haven't done anything to stop it. Instead they have given a free rein and allowed the military to kill whenever and whomever it wanted to. 

Speaking about the white-van abductions, Fein observed that there had been more than 3000 documented cases of disappearances. There have also been more than 1000 cases of bombings causing serious bodily injury, however no Tamil has been given any compensation for the suffering undergone. Finally, Mr. Fein charged the Sri Lankan Government with creating conditions of life that gave Tamils no opportunity but to die, or to live at the mercy of the Government. By denying food, by stealing Tsunami relief, the Government ensured that people live in semi-starvation and more than 80% of the children suffered from malnutrition. He also blamed the government for preventing supply of medicines and said, "Sri Lanka must be the only government in the wold which wants its people to die from epidemics. It is the only government in the world that ships banned product to its people. There are no hospitals, there is no proper treatment facilities, there are no ambulances. Bullock car ts serve as ambulances, and medicine has been pushed to the stone-age, he lamented. 

Bruce Fein also mentioned that everyone in the North-East has been displaced at least once and that presently 1.3 million Tamils had been displaced. He blamed the Sri Lankan Government for cutting off all communication from the Tamil areas by expelling the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, ICRC and foreign NGOs. 

He also added that one of the benefits of the genocide prosecution would be the unification of the Tamils worldwide. "There can be no difference of opinion over the fact that what is happening to Tamils in Sri Lanka is a clear-cut case of genocide" he said. 

Chalking out the strategy of the Tamils Against Genocide group, Mr.Fein said that they would approach the US Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Congress. Even as he made it clear that the US would be pre-occupied with its foreign policy in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza strip, Mr.Fein said that the American Government would not blind itself to genocide when one of its citizens was one of the criminal accused. Mr.Fein said that the Sri Lanka Government had gained an upper-hand so far by virtue of using the buzz-word of terrorism to slur an ethnic conflict. Mr.Fein pointed out that when the genocide was exposed in the international forum, it would automatically lay the basis for an independent state. 

He also observed that there were a few positive signals from the International Community: Sri Lanka had been rejected from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the British Parliament had discussed the need for a ceasefire in the war-torn island, and so on. Mr.Fein also said that one had to look for cracks in the Sinhalese-Buddhist polity. He emphasized the importance of finding support among these sections so that it doesn't look like a Sinhalese versus Tamils issue. He also added that the Sri Lankan government responded to its Sinhalese critics through death-threats and the use of brute force, which clearly showed that they had no legitimacy. In conclusion, Bruce Fein said that he was inspired by Socrates who chose death in order to make life better for those yet to be born. 

Later, responding to questions from the media, Mr.Fein spoke of how in the name of counter-terrorism the Sri Lankan Government was committing ridiculous atrocities including the massacre of women and children. He labelled the Government of Sri Lanka's genocidal program as the "crime of crimes." 
When asked how this issue could be brought into the spotlight, the US former Deputy Associate Attorney General said that this could be done by concentrating on America alone. Gotabhaya would be the first US citizen in history to be tried for genocide. Fonseka would be the only green-card holder accused of that crime. That would give this case massive publicity and the trial would grab the international media's attenton, he said. 

Responding to a question on how Tamils would get justice within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution which did not even allow for a federal state, Bruce Fein said that the Sri Lankan State had disrespected every piece of paper that tried to enshrine and protect Tamil rights. Even Article 29 had been dishonoured. Moreover, even a totally new Constitution could be repealed the very next day, and the Sri Lankan Supreme Court would support the same, he said. "There is no legitimate security for Tamil people without sovereignity," he added. 

Asked about the probability of a solution to the Lankan ethnic crisis bypassing India, Bruce Fein replied that India had no role to play if Sri Lankan citizens were made to stand trial for genocide in the US. India could advise against a separate Tamil state arguing that it would set a precedent for the separation of Kashmir, Assam and Tamil Nadu. India likes to forget the convenient truth that by helping Bangladesh secede from Pakistan, India had herself created a precedent in history. So, the threat of separatism within India would never form a convincing argument, he said. 

The anti-Congress mood prevalent in Tamil Nadu came to the forefront when there was a barrage of questions targeting the Indian Government. To a particular question on what he felt about the Indian Government's inaction to the humanitarian tragedy, and the proxy war that India was waging, Bruce Fein said that his silence would be the best answer to such a broad question. 

A similar question was posed when a member of the audience wanted to know about the Indian Government's inaction when Indian fisherment where being killed by the Sri Lanka Navy. Mr.Fein replied that these instances proved the lawlessness of the Sri Lankan Government which wanted to shoot down anyone who vaguely resembled a Tamil. 

Finally, when asked to put forward a final solution to the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka, Bruce Fein said that nothing was ever fixed and this applied to national boundaries also. The only way in which peaceful existence between the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamils on the island could be ensured was to carve out a separate state for the Tamils. "The important point to remember is that the rights of the Tamils have been dishonoured for the past sixty years. The Tamil people are being subjected to oppression, and they are made to live in fear every moment of their lives. To ask the Tamils to live along with the Sinhalese within unified Sri Lanka would be as disastrous as asking Blacks in the USA to go back to being slaves to the Whites."


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