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Sri Lanka’s anti-Tamil genocide escalates

November 19, 2011
Saturday, April 25, 2009 – 10:00
By Tim Dobson

On April 19, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) moved ground troops into what it had declared a “no-fire zone” in the north of the island, into which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians remain crowded.

The SLA has used cluster bombs, gas bombs and other heavy weapons as part of the assault.

In an April 21 statement entitled “Sri Lanka: situation of civilians nothing short of catastrophic”, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said: “We are very worried that the final offensive in the area by government forces against LTTE fighters could lead to a further dramatic increase in the number of civilian casualties.”

On April 20, TamilEelam News Service said, according to civilian sources, the heavy shelling in the latest offensive had already killed almost 1500 civilians, including nearly 500 children. More than 3000 others had been injured, TNS said

The Sri Lankan government claims its war is merely against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has waged a decades-long armed struggle for an independent Tamil homeland in the island’s north and east.

The SLA has recaptured a large amount of territory formerly held by the LTTE.

A senior United Nations official said more than 4500 people had been killed since mid-January, an April 21 New York Times article reported.

Many of the Tamil civilians who have fled the war zone have been put into concentration camps.

Sri Lanka has ignored an offer by the LTTE for an immediate ceasefire.

On April 20, a Tamilnet.com correspondent said: “Hundreds of dead bodies and wounded civilians were still lying in Maaththa’lan and Pokka’nai, and more than 600 seriously wounded have been brought to a makeshift hospital functioning at a school in Mu’l’li-vaaykkaal in LTTE held area”.

The correspondent “witnessed nearly 300 dead bodies while fleeing from the area. Cluster shells and smoke or white-dust-emitting shells that made people to faint were widely deployed on civilians by the Sri Lanka Army in its effort to capture them.”

Later reports said that 13,500 Tamil civilians had ended up in SLA custody, some of whom were put into the internment camps established for Tamils.

The SLA has been accused of separating females, placing Tamil males and the elderly into separate camps. War Without Witness said its investigation found that “14 UN Staff are currently detained in Sri Lankan Government barbed wire detention camps in Vavuniya”.

Conditions in these camps are hard to verify, due to the SLA’s refused to allow any media, and very few aid workers, in.

The Sri Lankan government continues to deny it has engaged in any shelling at all. Defence ministry spokesperson Lakshman Hulugalle claimed the reports were “false allegations” by the LTTE: “There has been no shelling from our part.”

However, the Catholic charity Caritas confirmed to the NYT on April 23 that a priest had been injured by an artillery attack in the “no-fire zone”.

It reported that the priest “had been washing up at an outdoor well when he was struck in the left leg by artillery shrapnel.”

Fourteen civilians are reported killed in that attack alone.

After its assault the SLA claimed it had “rescued” 35,000 Tamil civilians. Sri Lanka has accused the LTTE of holding civilians against their will in the small territory it still controls. The LTTE has said 200,000 civilians remain in this territory.

However, Tamilnet.com disputed Sri Lanka’s claim in an April 22 article. The article said that far from being held involuntarily by the LTTE, eyewitnesses have reported that most Tamil civilians who had escaped capture by the SLA went to LTTE-held territory.

The mainstream media has reported Sri Lanka’s claims uncritically.

An April 21 Tamilnet.com article instead quoted civil officials from Vavuniyaa and Jaffna, the districts surrounding the so called “no-fire zone”, who said that only 8500 civilians arrived.

The lie of Sri Lanka’s claims of a “rescue operation” was further exposed when an ICRC boat transporting 500 severely wounded people out of the conflict zone was fired on by the SLA.

The next day, a Sri Lanka Navy attack boat surrounded the ICRC boat, again preventing the transportation of the wounded, Tamilnet.com said on April 23.

The Sri Lankan government is demanding a full surrender by the LTTE. An LTTE statement responded that it would “like to reiterate its commitment to a ceasefire without any preconditions, as urged by the US and other members of the international community. The LTTE is also ready for a meaningful negotiation on all issues related to humanitarian access, security, movement and welfare of the Tamil civilian population.”

The Sri Lankan government again rejected the LTTE’s call.

While Sri Lanka continues to receive the backing of world powers for its genocidal policy, the extremity of the current round of killing has forced some verbal criticisms.

On April 22, US secretary of State Hilary Clinton said: “I think that the Sri Lankan government knows that the entire world is very disappointed that in its efforts to end what it sees as 25 years of conflict, it is causing such untold suffering.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also reportedly phoned his Sri Lankan counterpart, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, and “pressed him extremely hard” for a ceasfire.

This did not stop a resolution by the UN Security Council, over which Britain and the US both have a veto, demanding that the LTTE “immediately lay down arms, renounce terrorism, allow a UN-assisted evacuation of the remaining civilians in the conflict area, and join the political process”.

The statement also “strongly condemned the LTTE, a terrorist organisation, for the use of civilians as human shields and for not allowing them to leave the area”.

The LTTE, which has repeatedly called for a ceasefire, is condemned, ordered to surrender and blamed for the humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government that is carrying out a brutal war on Tamil civilians and continues to block humanitarian aid from reaching the civilians under attack, escapes criticism.

In this way, the UN Security Council makes itself complicit in the genocide.

An April 21 Tamilnet.com article reported that Sri Navaratnam, leader of Tamil Sangam in Oslo and currently on hunger strike in front of the Norwegian parliament, said: “The international community, which systematically and deliberately destroyed the defences of the oppressed Tamils to pave way for the genocide, and to the last minute abetting the genocide, will soon be seen using the civilian shield to justify its develop[ing] onslaught [on] the country.

“The international media, especially some of them operating in Colombo, shamelessly sabotage news on the brutality committed on the civilians and pretend no knowledge of the actual plight of the civilians, saying there are no ‘independent sources to verify’.

“But they don’t hesitate to eulogise the exploits of Colombo’s genocidal army, Rajapaksa’s farce of ‘hostage evacuation’ and to create images of relief that the Tamil struggle for homeland is decisively over.”

Tamils have continued massive protests in major cities globally to demand government’s around pressure Sri Lanka for a ceasefire.

In London, Tamil hunger-strikers have entered their third week without food as thousands of Tamils blockaded Parliament square. The protesters vowed not to move “until immediate and permanent ceasefire was implemented in Sri Lanka”, Tamilnet.com said.

The South African government has been a rare government voice in speaking out on the plight of Tamils. The ANC, South Africa’s ruling party, “reiterated calls for a permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka and acknowledged the need for an independent Tamil homeland”, Tamilnet.com said on April 20.

South Africa’s deputy communications minister, Radhakrishna Padayachie, said: “A liberation movement that is founded from the inner well springs of the people and grounded on the aspirations of the people can’t be destroyed.”

He called on Sri Lanka to “do what history says you must … and address the principle of the self determination of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka”.

From GLW issue 792

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