Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Comments on Coomaraswamy's Speech

by Saravan

[Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy is the head of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and received a human rights award in Canada on November 8, 2005. The speech can be viewed at ]

It is always satisfying to see a Sri Lankan, particularly from the same community, win a prestigiuos award from an internationlly renowned University such as McGill. However, I was rather struck negatively by your presentation of the situation on Sri Lanka, especially pertaining to your garbled version about the violent events in the east, democracy in the NorthEast, the human rights record of the LTTE and the hackneyed issue of child soldiers.  

It is now known who is actually behind the split within the LTTE in the  east as revealed by the UNP politicos. Does the response of the LTTE and the people of the NE in connection with the elections come as a great surprise? Democracy is what is perceived by the people and not what is propagated by third parties, however high a position that interlocutor may hold. That interlocutor can give at best only a commentary.

To know the real reasons for what happened at the election, one has to speak to the Tamil people themslves and find out why. There was no indication that you had. Surely, it is known that the LTTE and their political ally, the TNA, are in the best position to reflect the aspirations of the overwhelming number of Tamil people of the NE. Your commentary, of course, will be used by propagandists of the State, which is totalitarian in actuality as far as the Tamil people are concerned and Fascist in their methods since 1983 towards the Tamils under draconian laws, a far cry from the rule of law. How then could you have dreamed about democracy flourishing in the NE? Are you inferring that it is flourishing in the rest of the island? Perhaps for some!    

In presenting your case about human rights violations at McGill University, you very carefully avoided specific reference to the gross violations and crimes against Tamil humanity by the State, which are enough to fill volumes. There are very noteworthy cases like the Krishanty schoolgirl murder and rape case, the Chemanni mass grave case and, of course, the Bindunuwewa case, among the known ones,  which are all very sore points in the Tamil psyche about which you had chosen to avoid any reference. Why is that? And what about the mass murder of over 65,000 civilians in the NE? 

In a way, your silence on these points is quite understandable, by virtue of the fact that you have to live and work in the midst of the people in the south. But then it is not presenting actuality, is it?  

Then there is the child soldier issue, no doubt a sore point most of all for the Tamil parents in question. Others are only making capital out of the Tamil misery inflicted by state misgovernance and misgovernment from 1948! Surely, can there be anything more cruel than the mass murder of thousands of children, babes and pregnant mothers  among the 65,000 or more bombed and shot out of existence in the NE from 1983 to 2001? It is all a matter of perception. The case of the hundreds of child soldiers in the NE cannot be condoned, but it is a subject in whcih the LTTE is said to be working on with UNICEF. It cannot be treated in isolation of the war situation inflicted on the Tamils by the State.   

You referred in your lecture to the Tamil population being halved. Is that not strongly indicative of ethnic cleansing ? One more thing. Does not all of the points above point to genocide by the state, not unlike what became of the veddah community over the past 2000 years? We see history repeating itself before our very eyes in the case of the Tamils. This, by no stretch of anyone's imagination, is accountable in terms of a flourishing democracy. Rather, the converse.