Sri Lanka’s Genocidal War as Seen by the World

By: Thambu Kanagasabai  LLM [London], Former Lecturer in Law – University of Colombo, May 30, 2017

Though Sri Lanka unleashed its agenda of marginalization of Tamils starting in 1956 through a program of Budddhisisation and Sinhalisation and a hidden genocidal process, the climax was reached during the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from 2006 – 2009, culminating in the genocide of Tamils keenly watched by United Nations and the International Community.  Their deadly and deliberate silence of these actors encouraged Pres. Mahinda Rajapakshe who rightly construed this silence as a tacit approval to proceed with the massacre of innocents in this war without witness.

Once the genocide was accomplished, the International Community and United Nations rushed in to do damage control, with statements, accusations, resolutions, investigations, etc.  These actions were only condemning and consoling messages for the lives of more than 100,000 Tamil civilians who were cut down for no reason except because they were Tamils, targeted for liquidation to make Sri Lanka a Sinhala-Buddhist State.

This article quotes the numerous comments and statements of various International Organizations, UN Officials, Human Rights Activists, and Intellectuals, etc.  about the period.  It is the hope of the traumatised Tamils that at the least accountability followed by appropriate punishment will be meted out to the perpetrators of the crime of genocide and upholding justice as a minimum to heal the wounds of victims who are still waiting and hoping against hope for appropriate remedies and justice.

The crown of all statements is that of the late President of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew, the world’s second best statesman after Nelson Mandela who created one of the world’s most prosperous nations from scratch.  Yew methodically and meticulously bonded the Chinese, Malays, Indian and others numbering three million [77% Chinese, 14%Malays, 8%Indians & 1% others] as Singaporeans and not as Chinaporeans by weeding out racism, communalism, chauvinism and majority hegemony which are the hallmarks of Sri Lanka since independence in 1948.

In 2010, immediately after the war Lee Kwan Yew who in 1948 wished to make Singapore like the prosperous and peaceful Ceylon, made his correct assessment of Mahinda Rajapakshe in ten words.  “Rajapakshe is a Sinhala extremist and he will never change”.  This is an opinion all the Tamil leaders and all communities must keep in mind when dealing with Rajapaksha.

However, the proximate cause of all the political turmoil in Sri Lanka was the unrealistic and parochial blunder committed by Britain when it dismantled and destroyed the separate Kingdoms of Jaffna, Kotte and Kandy which existed until 1833 and brought the Sinhalese and Tamils under one central rule based in Colombo.

This blunder was admitted by the UK Conservative party member Dr. Rachel Joyce who apologised on March 2009 and admitted the “error of colonial Britain in making a unitary Ceylon out of two nations the Tamil and Sinhalese.  The Tamil people have lived on the island for millennia in their own contiguous, distinct geographically territory.  The three million Tamils of the island constituted a self-governing nation until occupied by colonial powers in particular Britain who amalgamated them with the Sinhalese nation purely for convenience and administration”.


Philip Alston: UN Special Rapporteur on September 2006:
“Police and Military investigations in to the killings of Tamils and deaths in custody have too often been handled and remarkably few convictions have resulted. The criminal justice system – police prosecutions, investigations and trials has utterly failed to provide accountability”
“It is an enduring scandal that there have been virtually no convictions of government officials for killing Tamils, and many Tamils doubt that the rule of law will protect their lives”.

Louise Arbour:  United Nations High commissioner for Human rights – December 11th 2007:
“There is yet to be an adequate investigation or credible public accounting for the vast majority of abductions and disappearances”.

Human Rights Watch Report – August 2007
“The government has displayed a clear unwillingness to hold accountable those responsible for serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law”.

Manfred Nowak: – February 26, 2008 UN document;
“Torture is widely practised in Sri Lanka. Torture becomes a routine practice, both by the Police and the Armed Forces”.

Noam Chomsky:  Philosopher and Activist – 2008
“The fate of Tamils in Sri Lanka has been a shocking story of mounting errors. It would be unconscionable to stand by in silence as the remnants face still torture and disaster”.

Brahma Chellaney: Professor, Centre for Policy Research
“Even in victory, the Sri Lankan government is unable to define peace or outline a political solution to the long standing grievances of Tamils”.

Antony Loewenstein: Freelance Journalist and Author
“The Tamil struggle for justice and self-determination is a cause that should be supported by all citizens of good faith”.

Bruce Haigh: former Australian Diplomat i – 2010
“If you see the justice of the Tamils quest for equality in Sri Lanka and do nothing about it you stand condemned”.

Stuart Rees: Professor Emeritus – University of Sydney
“Respect for universal human rights is the test for any government which claims to be civic and democratic. The Government of Sri Lanka is failing the test.”

Le Monde: Phillipe Bolopian – May 28, 2009
“The United Nations deliberately hid the number of Tamils civilians being killed during the Sri Lankan Government’s offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. High ranking officers including Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon chose to keep silent about the high civilian death toll so as to avoid offending the Sri Lankan government”.

Dublin Tribunal – January 18, 2009
“The International community, particularly United Kingdom and USA share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process.”

Richard Dixon: Daily Telegraph – 2010
“Story of Sri Lanka in the last sixty five years is simply the repetition of hundreds and thousands of similar horrific events at different scales. 99% of the victims were innocent Tamils”.
“Sinhala chauvinism is the mother of all evils that is destroying this beautiful country. It is built on ignorance, arrogance, jealousy, insecurity, anger, lies and deception. This is a dangerous disease that has blinded the hearts and minds of the extremists Sinhala chauvinism or Sinhala extremism. It has nothing to do with ordinary Sinhala people”.
“International elements hid their faces in the sand when thousands of innocent were murdered in cold blood. United Nations, who is supposed to be a guardian for the oppressed and vulnerable in the world had in the past assisted Sri Lanka in mass murdering innocent Tamils, simply by ignoring the cries of the dying at the crucial hours”.

Jake Lynch, University of Sydney – 2011
“Time to bring about real negotiations over how to recognise and implement the Tamils legitimate right to self-determination. As long as it remains unfulfilled, the people of Sri Lanka will be condemned to endure a repeating cycle of violence and abuse. The International community must be honest and take responsibility for the collaboration with the Sri Lanka regime and party to the crimes against humanity”.

International Commission of Jurists –  2012
“The Government of Sri Lanka has a long history since 1977 of using National Commissions of Inquiry as a means of circumventing the Criminal Justice System and of not implementing Commissions of Inquiry recommendations”.

United Nations Internal Review Panel Report – 2012
“Events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the United Nations to adequately respond to early warnings and to the evolving situation during the final stages of the conflict and its aftermath, to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of civilians and in contradiction with the principles and responsibilities of the United Nations. It was exacerbated by the inaction of member states who failed to take up the escalating crisis in the Security Council, Human Rights Commission and General Assembly”

Richard Dixon: 2012
“Unless the root cause of the ethnic problem is dealt with, Sri Lanka will face another wave of violence that could even be detrimental to the peace and stability in the whole south east Asia”.

Amnesty International – 2012
“A Government inquiry Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission [LLRC] into Sri Lanka’s civil war is flawed at every level providing to accountability for atrocities. The government used the LLRC as its trump card in lobbying against an Independent International Investigation”. [Sam Zafiri – Director AI]

United Nations Panel of Experts on Accountability – 2011
“The conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of International Law  designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace”.

United Nations Review Panel:  2012
According to United Nations data most casualties are caused by Government fire”.

Professor Steven Ratner [Member of UNSG Panel of Experts]– 2012
“There is no environment to address accountability and dispense justice for these crimes domestically in Sri Lanka”.

Richard Dixon: Telegraph 2012
“Sri Lanka defends its atrocities by non-compliances, denials, refusals, justifications, black mailing and other techniques to escape justice”.

Human Rights Watch: 2013
“We found disturbing patterns, strongly suggesting that [sexual violence] was a widespread and systematic practice:

Yasmin Sooka:  United Nations Report 2014
“Widespread and systematic violations by the Sri Lankan security forces occur in a manner that indicates a co-ordinated, systematic plan approved by the highest level of Government from 2009 – 2014”.

Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka Bremen Germany: 2013
“On the strength of the evidence presented, the Tribunal reached the consensus ruling that the State of Sri Lanka is guilty of the crime of genocide against Eelam Tamils and that the consequences of the genocide continue to the present day with ongoing  acts of genocide against the Tamils. The International community particularly the United Kingdom and USA share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process”.

Rose Dimanno: – Toronto Star Political Analyst November 20, 2012
“There is a hidden genocide in Sri Lanka”.

International Crisis Group – 2014 
“Escalation of militarisation, colonisation and forcible imposition of Sinhala Buddhist culture”.

International Crimes Evidence Project Report – 2014
”Evidentiary material and the analysis highlight the likelihood that international crimes were committed during the period from Sept. 2008 to May 2009”.

Geoffrey Robinson QC: Australia – May 28, 2014
“If Tamils are not accorded equal rights in Sri Lanka – and they never have been – then they are entitled to autonomy. If the repression continues they are entitled to independence. Nothing succeeds like secession”.

Patrick Brown: Opposition Leader  Ontario Province Legislative Assembly, Canada – May 06th 2015
“Terrible human rights crimes have been committed and still there is no justice to the thousands of Tamils who lost their family members in the Sri Lankan genocide”.

Juan Mendez: United Nations top official on torture etc. – May 07, 2016
“Torture is a common practice inflicted in the course of both regular criminal and national security related investigations”.

Global Justice Centre: Blog – May 18, 2016
“The United Nation cannot fail the Tamils in Sri Lanka again, real justice for Tamils must include investigations into and prosecutions of genocide crimes including ongoing torture and gender-based violence committed with genocidal intent”.

Professor Jude Lal Fernando: Exiled Sinhala Academic – May 30, 2016
“There are two strands of the United Nations. One is the human rights and the humanitarian strand that genuinely represents the concerns of the people affected by wars. The other strand represents the powers who lead the wars and selectively applies human rights standards to suit their agenda, Ban-ki-Moon works for the powers who orchestrate wars even though he is supposed to represent the United Nations”.

Working Group on enforced disappearances – July 08, 2016
“Enforced disappearances are being used in a massive and systematic way in Sri Lanka for many decades to suppress political dissent or in the internal armed conflict “.

United Nations Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon – September 2016 while in Sri Lanka
“In 1994, in Rwanda there was a massacre, more than one million people were massacred. After Srebrenica massacre UN felt responsible for them and we did again in Sri Lanka”.

United Nations Report on Minority Issues – October 20, 2016
“There is a trust deficit vis-a-vis state as well between the communities in Sri Lanka”.

Oakland Institute: Berkeley, CA – March 20, 2017
“Sri Lankan government fails on promises of resettlement, demilitarisation and reconciliation. The attitude of the Sirisena administration makes a mockery of its international commitments”.

Patrick Brown: Leader of the Opposition, Ontario Legislative Assembly, Canada – May 18, 2017
“It was estimated that approximately tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in the final months of the conflict, eight years later there has been insufficient progress in seeking justice for the victims of genocide. In 2009, I was, the first Canadian Member of Parliament to speak out in the House of Commons about the genocide”.

Chris Alexander: Former MP and Minister of Immigration, Canada, Conservative Party
“We remember the genocide that preceded the brutal tragedy in Sri Lanka and hundred thousands of lives lost in the tragedy”.

Noam Chomsky: Professor of Linguistics emeritus;
Commenting on the book “CAGE” written by Gordon Weiss – A FORMER UN OFFICIAL, who worked in the conflict areas including Bosnia, Darfur.
“A shattering, heartbreaking tale of savagery and sufferings lifts the veil that conceals one of the most awful tragedies of the current era”.

Gordon Weiss: Former UN Official and author of the book “CAGE”
[Page 233} Sums up Sri Lanka’s debacle in the Comity of Nations as follows:-
“Moral authority is both possible and regarded as beneficial in mutually co-operative Union of Nations, the alternative is Sri Lanka’s model, a society sliding into tyranny where myth-making, identity white washing and political opportunism have defeated justice and individual dignity”.

Devon Haynie – US News & World Report – May 18, 2017
“Sirisena had no plan to quickly pursue recommendations. If anything, the President seemed to backtracking from his pledges, seeking in support of military leaders charged with crimes. UN deadline came and went in March 2017 with the Government making scant progress in any of its key pledges”.

Lord Shiva: Oxford University, Law Faculty – May 30, 2017
“Successive oppressive Sri Lankan Regimes commits heinous crimes against Tamils, Humanity, Genocide and Denial of Justice”.

All the above statements and quotations point to the following irrefutable conclusions based on facts & evidences collected and analysed with no room for doubt.

Sri Lankan Government’s Commissions and Omissions are:-

International crimes – including genocide in all forms [structural, cultural, religious] Ref: Genocide Resolution passed unanimously in the Northern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka in February 2015.

Enforced disappearances.
Arbitrary arrests and detention.
Forcible return of internally displaced.
Culture of impunity.
Ongoing human rights violations
Dismissing and ignoring the daily and continuing cries and pleas of relatives of disappeared/owners of seized land.

Failure to implement the UNHRC Recommendations in the October 1st 2015 Resolution.
Failure to set up the Office of Missing Persons, The OMP legislation is likely to be shelved.
Failure to set up any judicial mechanism, internal or otherwise to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes etc.
Failure to honor several promises made to foreign dignitaries and local Tamil leadership like the:-
1. Release of political prisoners, and lands unjustly occupied by security forces, no reduction of the Army presence in the Northern Province.
2. Repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA] is yet to materialize according to international norms.
3. Foot dragging in the making of new constitution.
4. No clear stand or proposal to solve the ethnic problem.
5. No investigation as to the 65,000 or more missing, possibly it will never be.

It is time for the International Community and United Nations to come to terms with Sri Lanka’s real intention, lest another round of turmoil may become to unstoppable.

The comments of the following Statesmen are worth quoting:-

Martin Luther King:
“We shall have to repent in this generation not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked, but of the silence of the good people”.

Edmund Burke:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

Will Sri Lanka continue to pursue the present policy of majoritarian hegemony leading to ultimate national disintegration or switch to the pragmatic policy of true reconciliation towards building a united Sri Lanka under a two nations federal system.???


No Responses to “Sri Lanka’s Genocidal War as Seen by the World”

  1. S Siva

    Mr. Thambu Kanagasabai is a legal academic, expert with in-depth knowledge and expertise in Sri Lankan state oppression, Tamils’ struggle for equality, rule of law, accountability and Justice, human rights activist and his writings are with solid, strong, facts, evidence and testimony.

    It is unthinkable that the UN and the International community still giving time to the regime that continues to ignore calls for an independent investigation with foreign judges on war crimes, mass human rights abuses, rapes and murder of women and children despite successive Sri Lankan regimes have been misleading, deceiving, provide false promises for several decades and got away from accountability and state terrorism charges.

    Despite UN aware of Sri Lankan forces’ alleged crimes against humanity, rape and murder of Tamil women and children, UN employed them in a peace keeping mission in Haiti and their alleged sexual abuses and no investigation by the Sri Lankan regime were exposed recently in international media.

    Tamils victims are demanding for international independent investigation and Justice. many global leaders, human rights organizations and NGOs called for international action to put an end to denial of Justice!
    It is sad that International community not only failed to stop genocide but continue to fail to deliver Justice!

  2. Tharma Siva

    An outstanding contribution by Mr. Kanagasabai, a Legal expert with facts, evidences, demands from independent human rights defenders and activists, call by global citizens for an independent investigation and Justice as Sri Lankan state oppression against Tamils is going on for several decades and since independence in 1948.

    It is a tragedy that Tamils were living in peace and harmony in Eelam for centuries prior to Western colonialism that merged Eelam with Sinhala land for easy administration. Eelam Tamils participated in the freedom struggle with Indian leaders including Mohandas Gandhi. Eelam Tamils created history when they joined hands with Chinese leaders, notably under late Hon. Lee Kuan Yew and made a tiny island Singapore as a globally renowned nation and it has become one of the most disciplined and peaceful nations on earth with prosperity.

    Whereas Sinhala leaders used chauvinistic rhetoric to win votes, used state forces to commit crimes, instigated race riots against Tamils, made the nation as high politicized and now continue to deny Justice to Tamils. It is time for the International community to act firmly and decisively to launch an independent international investigation with foreign investigators and judges to deliver Justice that is fair and credible as Sri Lankan law enforcement and Judiciary too are highly politicized and Tamils have no confidence in it.

  3. Kuna

    Excellent and well analysed with full details of the Genocide of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. This very clearly shows the world’s attention towards human rights and how geopolitics and interests is considered for their benefits disregarding human rights violations. It is still shocking how the United Nations established especially for the protection of the oppressed and world peace kept mum.
    The oppressed people are very disappointed by the inactivity and silence of the UN when there is a human crisis.
    After so many genocides the UN said never again and it failed again and again and the Sri Lankan Genocide is the latest that UN accepted that it failed in Sri Lanka.
    Mere accepting is not going to solve the problems of Tamils who lost thousands of lives, creating more than 80,000 war widows and 100,000 orphans and destruction of Billions of Dollars properties . The UN has to right the wrong and force Sri Lanka for remedial justice and political freedom under a federal system of government.