Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Speech on Tamil Genocide at White House Rally

by V. Rudrakumaran, May 15, 2009

This week, the humanitarian catastrophe—the humanitarian disaster in Mulaithivu has captured the attention of the International Community.  What we need now is neither attention nor an acknowledgement.  What we need now is urgent dramatic action—not paralysis, not geopolitical considerations, not diplomatic niceties...

We strongly believe that in order to take effective action, the International Community should stop blaming both sides.  There is no moral equivalence between the perpetrators of  genocide and the victims of genocide.  There is no equality in arms between the oppressor and the oppressed.  There is no comparison between the persecutor and the persecuted.  Blaming both sides is a recipe for inaction. 

Speech delivered at rally against Tamil genocide in front of White House.

Since last weekend, the mono-ethnic armed forces of the Government of Sri Lanka have staged a bloodbath on the shores of Mullaithivu. Since last weekend, more than 3,000 Tamil civilians have been killed and more than 5,000 Tamil civilians have been injured.  Since last weekend, the makeshift hospital at Mullivaaykkal, a protected entity under the laws of war, has been shelled twice, resulting in the killing of more than 100 civilians, including many children, patients, a medical staff member, a volunteer doctor, and an ICRC worker.  And today we heard that 4,000 Tamil civilians have been injured by the use of chemical weapons and white phosphorus.

Rudrakumar

By blocking the ICRC ships carrying emergency supplies of food and medicine, the GoSL is increasingly employing starvation, a war crime, as a tool of genocide.

The use of heavy weapons to a 1,000 square meter area where more than 150,000 Tamil civilians are concentrated, according to the ICRC, clearly demonstrates that the target of the GoSL’s slaughter is not the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but the Tamil civilians - thereby revealing their intent to commit the crime of genocide.  As we have been telling the International Community, what is happening on the island of Sri Lanka is nothing but genocide.  Since last week, the GoSL - for various political and/or military considerations - has intensified the genocide of Tamils.  It has converted its self-designated ‘safe zone’ into a ‘killing field.’

Until recently, the genocide of Tamils, the carnage unleashed by the GoSL on a people, has not received the attention it should have received.  Even when the attention is focused, the International Community’s response is tragically and obnoxiously similar to the international community’s response with respect to the genocide in Rwanda.  In the early period of the Rwandan Genocide, the deaths of civilians were not viewed as atrocities or as a component and symptom of genocide, but as wartime casualties.

Similarly, the deaths of Tamil civilians during the early part of the GoSL’s military aggression were viewed and/or justified as collateral damage in the ‘war on terror’ and not as evidence of genocide.  Before and during the massacre in Rwanda, the international actors revealed their natural bias, and their predisposition towards state actors.  Similarly, in the current genocide of Tamils, the rights of the ‘legitimate government,’ elected by the Sinhala people for the Sinhala people to combat so-called terrorism, were given preeminence over the very physical survival of the Tamil civilians.  Both in the Rwandan genocide and in the Tamil genocide, both sides - the Hutu government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front in the Rwandan context and, in the context of Tamil genocide, both the GoSL and the LTTE - have been blamed.  Both in Rwanda and on the Island of Sri Lanka, during the actual massacres the International Community did not use the “G” word, since an acknowledgement entails a legal, moral, and political imperative to act. 

This week, the humanitarian catastrophe—the humanitarian disaster in Mulaithivu has captured the attention of the International Community.  What we need now is neither attention nor an acknowledgement.  What we need now is urgent dramatic action—not paralysis, not geopolitical considerations, not diplomatic niceties.

Since the GoSL itself is the perpetrator of the genocide of Tamils on the Island of Sri Lanka, the Responsibility to Protect [R2P] falls on the shoulders of the International Community.  The International Community is obligated to protect against serious and irreparable harm involving the large-scale loss of lives.  R2P mandates that the International Community take whatever measures necessary to stop mass killings.  The “never again” is happening on the island of Sri Lanka right this moment.

We strongly believe that in order to take effective action, the International Community should stop blaming both sides.  There is no moral equivalence between the perpetrators of  genocide and the victims of genocide.  There is no equality in arms between the oppressor and the oppressed.  There is no comparison between the persecutor and the persecuted.  Blaming both sides is a recipe for inaction.  It forecloses the door for dramatic action.

When we hear about the bloodbath on the shores of Mullaithivu, we, the Tamils of America, feel that the only hope to save the Tamils is President Obama.  He articulated his conviction during the campaign: “when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world, and we stand idly by, that diminishes us.”  Mr. President, your presidential campaign imbued many people, including the Tamils, with the hope that the Obama presidency would adopt a new approach to conflict resolution that is based on humanitarian and political considerations, rather than the fear-mongering premise of the ‘War on Terror.’  We also share your view when you said that, “…the military end of the conflict only breeds further enmity and ends hopes for reconciliation and a unified Sri Lanka in the future.”  The GoSL’s ongoing genocide has not only shrunk the conflict area, but also the political space for a unified Sri Lanka.

We hope that without further delay, you will follow through with your initiative against the massacres by GoSL and put an end to the Genocide.

Thank you.