Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Genocide of Tamils in Vanni, Sri Lanka

Tamil Women's Organization, Scoop, New Zealand, March 6, 2009

The medical facilities to care for the wounded and any others falling sick are very negligible or altogether absent. The major reason for this has been that hospitals and other treatment centres (called dispensaries) are also deliberately targeted by the Sri Lankan security forces for bombing and shelling. This has been carried to the extent of completely destroying or making dysfunctional of all existing medical facilities within the Vanni area. Even when efforts are made to provide the very minimum of medical attention in alternate locations (like school-buildings and under the trees), essential basic medical equipment and drugs are not simply available. Since the government has ordered its medical personnel out of the Vanni areas, there is an acute shortage of qualified medical personnel. The problem has further been exacerbated by the absence of NGOs, which have all withdrawn, again on government orders.

Friday, 6 March 2009, 3:47 pm
Press Release: Tamil Women's Organisation

Genocide of Tamils in Vanni, Sri Lanka

Background
Sri Lanka is an island shared by two major ethnic nations: the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Yet, the Sinhalese forming the majority with about 70% of the population have always enjoyed state power under a governance structure based on parliamentary democracy. The sovereign power of (Sinhalese) governments has however been directed against the Tamils almost from the very inception of independent rule in Sri Lanka in 1948. The discriminatory approach gradually affected every facet of the Tamil civilian life including their right to live in their homeland, the NorthEast of the island. When all political efforts to resolve the crisis through peaceful means failed, the youth, who formed the most victimised segment of the population, resorted to a militant strategy, largely out of their frustration and exasperation. Understandably, it also had the overwhelming support of the entire Tamil population. But successive Sri Lankan governments still refusing to come to terms Tamil rights, now, described youth militancy as ‘terrorism’ and began using excessive methods both against the youth and the Tamil civilian population killing as many as possible. Thus, began the genocidal act of the Sri Lankan governments, which has, now, reached abominable proportions.

There are two dimensions to the ongoing war in Vanni, the region until recently controlled fully by the Tamil militants Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and now captured by the Sri Lankan forces, except for a few square-kilometres. The first deals with the human misery caused by the war. The second is the basic issue on which the war is fought.

Humanitarian Issues
The most immediate concern is the anguish and agony of the civilian population in the combat areas. The government security forces are bombing villages from the air and also raining them with rocket-shells (according to eye-witnesses ranging from 1000-6000 per day) from adjacent military camps. When people are killed, maimed, and injured in their hundreds, the lucky (or unlucky) ones who survive are unable to render any assistance due to the incessant nature of the attack. Neither is it possible to collect the shattered bodies of those perished.

The medical facilities to care for the wounded and any others falling sick are very negligible or altogether absent. The major reason for this has been that hospitals and other treatment centres (called dispensaries) are also deliberately targeted by the Sri Lankan security forces for bombing and shelling. This has been carried to the extent of completely destroying or making dysfunctional of all existing medical facilities within the Vanni area. Even when efforts are made to provide the very minimum of medical attention in alternate locations (like school-buildings and under the trees), essential basic medical equipment and drugs are not simply available. Since the government has ordered its medical personnel out of the Vanni areas, there is an acute shortage of qualified medical personnel. The problem has further been exacerbated by the absence of NGOs, which have all withdrawn, again on government orders.

A positive ploy of genocide is how the government declares certain areas as security zones and requests people to move into them. But once civilians abide by this request, the zones are deliberately subjected to severe bombing and shelling killing and maiming those who sought sanctuary. This has happened not once but on numerous occasions. On the other hand, people are also urged to move entirely out of their home areas into government set-up camps in state-controlled areas. Here, they have to go through a filtering process to determine whether they were pro-LTTE and reliable reports speak of these camps as akin to concentration camps.

Lack of food and other essential commodities lead to widespread starving and there are already reports of a number of deaths due to starvation.

Required Action
It is clear from the foregoing that there is an urgent need for food and medicine in the Vanni area. Women and children are undergoing untold hardship. What is basically required is a regular supply of these into people’s own areas and not shifting people to an unfamiliar environ like a camp or a zone. It needs to be emphasised that it is a fundamental right that people be allowed to live in their own areas and evicting people from their homes cannot form a solution to a crisis, whether short term or longstanding. An analogy here is that no one suggests that the people of Gaza be shifted to a different location as a means of solving their problem with Israel.

The government firmly maintains that the bleak picture painted above is non-existent in Vanni and it is a deliberate ploy of the LTTE to discredit the government. It also claims that any prolonged difficulty in Vanni is due to LTTE action, which is using civilians as human shields. But, at the same time, the government denies access to any independent observers to visit combat areas to ascertain these facts. Our stand is that if the government is honest and truthful, there is no reason why it should block any one visiting these areas. We request that independent observers be immediately allowed into conflict areas so that factual reporting is possible.

Fundamental Issue
The core issue behind the war is not really defeating the LTTE or its so-called ‘terrorism’, but resolving the Tamil demand for recognition as a nation and their right to self-determination. Although the government claims that it had decimated the LTTE and thereby Tamil terrorism, it has not come out with any meaningful solution towards this basic issue. We firmly believe that until the political demand of the Tamils is met through a suitable mechanism, the annihilation of the LTTE or its struggle could only be an illusion and that it would re-emerge in another form sooner or later.

Ends