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Preempting an imminent humanitarian operation

[Press Release, Tuesday, 5 January 2010 17:38 One Comment]

Here is an alert as it was conveyed to the War Without Witnesses by a concerned human rights activist: 

"..one of my friend connected to Sri Lankan military, who is concerned about human beings life told that a group of military intelligence personal with the orders from top boss are planning to stage play a secret attack on one of the major camp where LTTE Prisoners are detained without ICRC, UN or outside access. They are planning to use some of the LTTE leaders currently in detention to launch an attack on the prison itself (like a rescue mission from remaining LTTE) and execute LTTE prisoners during the counter attack by military personnel providing security to the prison. It is going to happen before presidential election. If this is done this will be a big killing." We Hope not.

The term "humanitarian operation" in the current Sri Lankan parlance has acquired several shades of meaning one being the killing of Tamils, both militants and civilians, in cold blood. In the recent humanitarian operation, by a very conservative estimate, at least 20,000 human beings were massacred within a matter of a few weeks through starvation, denial of medical aid and medicines, the use of chemical and cluster bombs, bombings of civilian targets including hospitals and settlements, destruction of the means of livelihood, to mention a few. The idea was to decimate them. They are not said to be a crime as long as they come under the definition of "humanitarian operation" of the Sri Lankan mode, a term invented by the Rajapakse brothers.

The entire operation was described "humanitarian" replacing the term "global war on terror", this war being confined to a small area of the Vanni, a minute  part of the globe, anyway global in the Vanni. This operation, however, it is thought, will  not fall within the ambit of the definition of a War crime or a crime against humanity as long as Gotabaya Rajapakse’s guidelines for the operation have been meticulously adhered to. As long as they are called a "humanitarian operation" the perpetrators cannot be classified war criminals and with war criminals posted in high places they are sufficiently insulated against any danger so that they can carry on regardless. Further victors, by some queer reasoning, cannot be deemed war criminals  however heinous.

Ban ki Moon, who often on Sri Lankan matters  given to delegating  his capacity for independent thinking to Vijay Nambiar, the honest broker from India, stated to the CNN  what he saw on the ground on his inspection flight immediately after the war: "I was so sad and I was so humbled by what I have seen". When asked whether heavy weapons had been used his doctored view was that he had no clear evidence of it. Here is one person who  got very close to comprehending the spirit of this term as evolved by the Rajapakses.

Despite the sometimes unfounded and often orchestrated fear for the LTTE amongst the Sinhalese, there are the countless  well meaning and conscionable of them, some who have been articulate and vocal about the atrocities and repression of the Tamil people, and others silent and helpless spectators. On this occasion it is apparently a Sinhalese whistle blower who has come forward to warn against an impending massacre. The message though is not couched in impeccable English is self explanatory. It is from such people that we have had the truth about the shallow Chemmani grave containing hundreds of Tamil remains and the truth about the gang rape and murder of Krishanthy by the army personnel in Jaffna.

We cannot dismiss the above warning by the concerned human rights activist lightly. Such massacres and summary executions of unsuspecting Tamil militant suspects confined within remand prisons and rehabilitation centres, not to mention the "humanistic welfare villages" (IDP camps) where Tamils were held either awaiting "trial" or "rehabilitation", perhaps found to be an inexpensive, interactive, democratic and a civilized method of eliminating people despite the abundance of sophisticated weaponry, are not without precedent. Already more than 10,000 in the IDP camps have gone missing.  Autocrats like Polpot, Idi Amin and Pinochet did not adopt this method! After all, they were not democrats. We hope that this editorial will serve as a pre -emptive warning of what is to come.

In the midst of the 1983 Pogrom against the Tamil people, there were within the principal Sri Lankan prison, Welikade in Colombo, more than fifty  suspected militants in custody awaiting trial, including a human rights activist and non government volunteers.  Convicted Sinhalese in the prison  were unleashed upon them undoubtedly with State complicity only to be just massacred  with no action  taken against any of them. They just walked back into their cells having earned  points for good behaviour qualifying for an early release.

The other, the massacre of the inmates of Bindunuwewa on 25 October 2005 is well documented. Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre was one of three centres run by the Sri Lankan Government with substantial overseas funding to rehabilitate LTTE suspects and surrenders. It was shown off as a model for the rehabilitation of former LTTE members. On Oct 25th in 2000 a mob of Sinhalese stormed the camp and massacred the inmates while 60 police officers stationed that night to protect the inmates stood by. Twenty-eight inmates died and another 14 were seriously injured. There were nine survivors. The 60 odd police officers at the scene failed to take any action to stop the carnage. Yet no criminal responsibility was, laid on the police officers, rather they were found guilty for the minor offence of dereliction of duty. No one was convicted for any offence.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights Review, captioned: "Miscarriage of Justice in the Bindunuwewa Massacre Case"; June 1, 2005, stated: "In its judgment on 27 May 2005, the Supreme Court judges held that "the Trial-at-Bar had totally misdirected itself by holding that the police had removed the detainees bodies from the scene to destroy the evidence since the evidence of ASP Dayaratne revealed that it was so done as instructed by the DIG to preserve peace in the area as there was a large concentration of Tamil estate workers in the surrounding area."  The court also acquitted the three villagers, M.A. Samy, D.M.S. Dissanayake and R.M. Premananda……..Any court is as good as the prosecution.  In Sri Lanka, where the independence of judiciary under Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva, former Attorney General of the Kumaratunga government, is seriously under question, the role of the investigators and prosecutors becomes more important.  However, from day one, the investigators and prosecutors worked in tandem to systematically destroy the evidence…..The five judges bench brushed aside a number of issues which were critical for conviction of the accused…..".

Dr Brian Senewiratne, a fearless prominent human rights activist and a cousin of the former President Chandrika Kumaratunge under whose stewardship this happened wrote on 25 October 2005 : "The massacre of 24 unarmed Tamil boys in a Rehabilitation Centre run by the Sri Lankan Government must arouse international condemnation. This is a gross violation of International law and International Covenants to which Sri Lanka is a signatory. In accordance with International Law, authorities holding detainees are responsible for their safety and security at all times and in all circumstances. There are no exceptions. During the 1983 massacre of Tamil civilians in Colombo, 52 Tamils held in the maximum security section of the Welikade jail in Colombo were battered to death by a large group of well armed Sinhalese prisoners while the prison guards and army officials looked on. Some of the other 290 prisoners testified that gangs of hoodlums were brought into prison from outside. There is also evidence that prison officials participated in the killing orgy with prison equipment such as axes and knives being given to other prisoners. The then President, J.R. Jayawardene and some of his Cabinet Ministers and their bands of hooligans who were responsible for systematically destroying Tamil lives and property in Colombo were implicated in this massacre. International bodies pointed out that such a massacre could not have occurred without the complicity of prison officials, especially since the prisoners were in the maximum-security section of the prison……

….In December 1997, three Tamils were hacked to death in prison while guards looked on. In January this year (2000), two Tamil political detainees were murdered in the Kalutara prison just south of Colombo…….The youths were detained under the notorious "Prevention of Terrorism Act", which breaches every international convention. A police unit and 12 home guards recruited from the neighbourhood were in charge of security. It is important to appreciate that the young detainees were being held without charge or trial. They had been demanding that charges be filed against them or that they be released. They were denied the judicial process to which they have a right under the U.N. International Convention on Civil and Political Rights to which Sri Lanka acceded in 1980……

…..There is no question that some of the home guards and policemen aided the mob. Some of the mob had been transported from elsewhere in vehicles. (I know the area well and there is simply no public transport to move such a large number of people). What is even more serious is that when the injured were taken to the Bandarawela Hospital, the medical staff refused to attend to them saying they were Tamil Tigers. Journalists trying to get some information about the massacre were subjected to intimidation by police who attempted to portray this as an escape attempt, a riot etc. When Non-Governmental organisations tried to visit the scene, they were told by the hooligans "We have cleared the area of Tigers and protected our homeland. Go away and don’t report anything that would discredit our Sinhala-Buddhist country…..If what we have seen in Bindunuwewa is the outcome of this "rehabilitation program", the International Community must act. Or do we wait for the next massacre?"( from "The massacre of Tamil youths in a detention centre in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka").

We reiterate Brian’s warning and indeed await the next massacre with trepidation for the next   humanitarian operation. If the international community do not act immediately to prevent this, there will be another masscre.

-Eelam Nation

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One Comment »

  • Denver DUI Attorney said:

    You have written a great and very good post about Sri Lankan war which is being fight against the Tammils. Off course there are many problem in the country due to this and you have highlighted it very well.