International Support for Sri Lanka
The Geneva Declaration on Terrorism, passed May 29, 1987 by the UN general assembly, points out that the main perpetrators of terrorism are governments striving to keep down parts of their populations or other peoples. In this document the main culprits are the United States, Israel, South Africa and the many dictatorships in Latin America at that time.
“State terrorism manifests itself in: 1) police state practices against its own people to dominate through fear by surveillance, disruption of group meetings, control of the news media, beatings, torture, false and mass arrests, false charges and rumors, show trials, killings, summary executions and capital punishments;”
“The terrorism of modern state power and its high technology weaponry exceeds qualitatively by many orders of magnitude the political violence relied upon by groups aspiring to undo oppression and achieve liberation.”
“…peoples who are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination have the right to use force to accomplish their objectives within the framework of international humanitarian law.”
This document applies to the situation of the Sri Lankan governments since 1983 as well as to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the proportions of the use of violence are as described in the general assembly document. The LTTE did, however, after time, go beyond the framework of international humanitarian law.
One voice regarding terrorism and what lies behind these atrocities appears so credible to me, and so tragic in itself, that I quote him extensively to show that all warring parties in Sri Lanka acted as terrorists. Here are some of the last words of Sri Lankan journalist Manilal Wickrematunge Lasantha, a Sinhalese, who predicted his assassination shortly before it occurred, on January 8, 2009. His newspaper, The Sunday Leader, published his own “obituary” three days later.
“Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty…
“Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy…Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united…
“…we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens…
“The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organizations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma [the teachings of Buddha, which lead to enlightenment] is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship…
“What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect…
“It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.
“The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda [Rajapakse, the president] and I have been friends for more than a quarter century… Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you…” (37)
When Lasantha’s dramatic editorial appeared, he had already been murdered on his way to work by four men on motorcycles. Addressing President Rajapaksa, Lasantha had predicted the nature of the enquiry into his own murder: "like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one. For, truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name."
As cited in Wikipedia, Gwynne Dyer in The Canberra Times for February 18, 2009, quoting Lasantha, added in parentheses: "Almost certainly he meant Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president’s brother.” In December 2008, Gotabaya had censored the Sunday Leader from publishing any criticism of his actions. There were reports that Gotabaya had earlier threatened the careers and lives of other journalists. (38)
A week before Lasanth’s murder, G. Rajapakse’s army captured the capital of the de facto Eelam state, Kilinochchi. The LTTE guerrilla army fled but not all the civilians had evacuated before the government’s troops entered and butchered scores or hundreds. On August 25, 2009, England’s Channel 4 News broadcast footage showing Sri Lankan forces executing nine Tamils stripped naked. One of the military’s soldiers had filmed this atrocity on his mobile telephone. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (Sinhalese and Tamils) obtained the film and presented it to Channel 4, which showed it after verifying its authenticity.
The United States government praised Sri Lanka for its military offensive. The US embassy in Colombo issued this statement: “The United States does not advocate that the Government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE…” (39)
Following this crushing defeat, the LTTE was reduced to an area of a few square kilometers. Many thousands of civilians had left their homes to reach so-called No Fire Zones, which the S.L. army began setting up on January 20th. Conditions were sub-human (and they continue to be so for over two-hundred and fifty thousand interned civilians in various camps as of this writing), and they were and are forced to remain. Amnesty International recently published a report about these camps. Sri Lanka is violating rules established by the United Nations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, applying to displaced persons. (40)
Here is an excerpt from a civilian inmate.
“Knowing that many civilians were not able to move, the government restarted shelling. They even hit the No Fire Zone so even that small area was not protected…When we heard the supersonic Kfirs [Israel jets] overhead we used to rush to the bunker and hide…That was our life for months just squatting in bunkers.”
“The Government of Sri Lanka exacerbated this isolation by restricting access by outsiders to the conflict area. In September 2008, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaska issued a directive ordering all humanitarian and UN agencies to leave the Vanni and remove all equipment and vehicles.” This order also applied to journalists, opposition politicians and humanitarian organizations. (40)
John Pilger described Sri Lanka’s isolation strategy this way:
“The Sri Lankan government has learned an old lesson from, I suspect, a modern master: Israel. In order to conduct a slaughter, you ensure the pornography is unseen, illicit at best. You ban foreigners and their cameras from Tamil towns like Mulliavaikal, which was bombarded recently by the Sri Lankan army, and you lie that the 75 people killed in the hospital were blown up quite willfully by a Tamil suicide bomber.” (12)
From 2006-7 onward President Rajapakse was spending nearly one-quarter ($1.5 billion) of Sri Lanka’s national budget of $7.5 billion (2008 figures) on war. By January 2009, the Sri Lankan military, refortified especially by Israel, Pakistan and China, had recaptured much of the Tamil Homeland. From the end of 2008 to Sri Lanka’s military victory over LTTE, it had indiscriminately bombed Tamil civilians even in the “safe zones” where the government had told them to flee. Many thousands were killed.
After the fall of Tamil Eelam’s de facto capital, it still took the far superiorly armed and manned army four and one-half months to defeat the guerrilla army. There were few close contact battles. The LTTE fighters and civilians in the remaining Homeland area were subject to shelling from the air and by long-distance artillery. Amnesty International reported:
“Eyewitness accounts of the final months of the war painted a grim picture of deprivation of food, water and medical care; fear, injury and loss of life suffered by civilians trapped by the conflict…both the LTTE and Sri Lankan government forces committed violations of international humanitarian law…The LTTE forcibly recruited children as soldiers, used civilians as human shields against the Sri Lankan army’s offensive, and attacked civilians who tried to flee. The Sri Lankan armed forces launched indiscriminate attacks with artillery on areas densely populated by civilians. Hospitals were shelled, resulting in death and injuries among patients and staff.” (40)
Sri Lanka’s military achieved victory by murdering any Tamil “in its way”, and because of the extensive military force provided to it by many capitalist and so-called socialist states. Here are the major players:
India has provided weaponry, radar and training to Sri Lanka’s military since 1987. It often hides what aid it gives or sells since so many of its citizens are against S.L.’s brutality against Tamils. After a period of providing little military assistance, it increased its aid at the end of 2008 when the government launched its all-out offensive. As late as April 2009, India sent three fast attack boats and a missile corvette (INS Vinash), part of $500 million in total aid. It has also turned over LTTE fugitives to S.L. India sees its traditional role as the dominant nation in South Asia being replaced by China’s fast-growing presence, which is another reason for its support to Sri Lanka’s Buddhist government despite the fact that 80% of India’s 1.2 billion people practice Hinduism with less than 1 per cent Buddhists. On the world plan, India hip hops from one antagonist force to another. There is no clear direction.
The United States of America has been arming and financing Sri Lanka for most of the civil war period. (41) Half of the world’s containerized cargo passes through the Indian Ocean. Its waters carry heavy traffic of petroleum products.
The US signed a ten year Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with Sri Lanka on March 5, 2007 which provides, along with other things, logistics supplies and refueling facilities. The US already has a Voice of America installation at Tricomalee, which can be used for surveillance. From at least the 1990s, the US has provided military training, financing and weapons sales averaging $1.5 million annually. During the cease fire, in 2002, this sum went down to $259,999 for military training only.
Bush was especially glad for Sri Lanka’s terrorism, and encouraged Colombo to resume the civil war, in 2006, which his government helped finance. The Pentagon provided counter-insurgency training, maritime radar, patrols of US warships and aircraft. At the end of Bush’s second term, the US was forced to cut back on aid, given that it was bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. That, coupled with critical public opinion, organized by the Diaspora, of state terrorism and systematic discrimination of Tamils, prompted congress to make noises about abuses of human rights by not only LTTE but also about the use of children in “paramilitary forces of the Sri Lankan government.” Nevertheless, in 2008, $1.45 million in military financing and training was granted the government out of a total of $7.4 million in total aid. The US made noises about a ‘humanitarian crisis’ when the Sri Lankan army was about to finish the war but it never took affirmative action to bring the war to an end.
Israel was officially re-awarded diplomatic relations, in May 2000, after Sri Lanka had severed them, in 1970, in protest at Israel’s continued illegal expansion into Palestinian territory. Nevertheless, Israel continued to operate inside S.L. out of a special interests office set up in the US embassy. Under the table, however, Sri Lanka’s successive regimes embraced Israel’s military advisors, a special commando unit in the police, and Mossad counter-intelligence agents—who sought to drive a wedge between Muslims and Tamils. After S.L. military defeat at Elephant Pass, it appealed to Israel for military aid. Israel sent 16 of its supersonic Kfir fighter jets, some Dvora fast naval attack craft, and electronic and imagery surveillance equipment, plus advisors and technicians. Israel personnel took part in military attacks on Tamil units, and its pilots flew attack aircraft. Tigers shot down one Kfir. Just before the end of the war, Prime Minister Wickremanayake was in Israel to make bigger deals with Israeli arms supplies. (42)
U.K./EU — In 2005, British arms exports rose by 60 per cent, according to John Pilger (12). In 2008, £1.4 million in arms export was approved. France sent patrol boats, and other EU countries continued but reduced military aid. The EU had never been required to offer much aid given that its major allies were so much engaged.
Japan has long been Sri Lanka’s greatest economic donor until China overtook that position in 2008-9. Japan has sold technology and offered generous loans, but it has also outright donated millions more every year. In 1997, for instance, it granted $52 million outright but $26 in technical cooperation. In 2001, aid was at $310 million. It also paid for the government television station, Rupavahini. While Japan’s aid, sales and loans are not directed at defense, these huge sums allow the Sri Lankan governments to use more of its budget for war. (43) This is the case as well with several other Asian countries.
Iran — “We don’t need your money (with all those strings)”, a Sri Lanka treasury functionary purportedly told World Bank officials last year. (44) “The international community” (US-EU governments) had begun to cut back on aid and even to ask questions about treatment of Tamil civilians, whose cries were being heard from the Diaspora. So, Sri Lanka played one power against another: India-Pakistan/China, US-China, Israel-Iran/Libya—the West-NAM. In 2008-9, Iran provided $1.9 billion in credit to build an oil refinery, in order to process S.L.’s crude oil, and it donated $450 million for a hydropower project.
Pakistan came into the Sri Lanka debacle, in 2008, at the encouragement of China. At the beginning of 2009, it provided $100 million in military assistance loans; it gave Chinese-origin small arms, and offered pilot training for S.L.’s new Chinese aircraft. Pakistan is also an ally of the US in its terror war “against” terror. Its governments are part of the war against Afghanistan, which has spread throughout most of Pakistan and split the population. Here have we a country allied with Cuba and ALBA et al. in NAM at the same time a partner with the world’s greatest terrorist state.
China entered the picture in 2005.China is the world’s no 2 oil consumer after the United States. China has stepped up efforts to secure sea lanes and transport routes that are vital for its oil supplies. In April 2007, just one month after the US’s ACSA deal with SL, China’s Poly Technologies supplied $36.5 million in arms to Sri Lanka. A $150 million contract was given to China’s Huawei, which has close links with the Chinese intelligence wing, MSS, to build a country-wide infrastructure for communications. In 2008, China invested five times over what it did in 2007. Its biggest investment is a vast construction project at Hambantota on the southern coast, which it will use as a re-fuelling and docking station for its navy. “Ever since Sri Lanka agreed to the plan, in March 2007, China has given it all the aid, arms and diplomatic support it needs to defeat the Tigers, without worrying about the West,” wrote The Times (London). (45)
China acts without asking questions about the treatment and conditions of workers and minorities. In April 2007, S.L. made a deal to buy Chinese ammunition and ordnance for its military. China gave it six F7 jet fighters after a Sky Tiger raid that destroyed ten military aircraft, in 2007. One Chinese fighter was soon shot down by Tigers. China has also given or sold on credit: an anti-submarine warfare vessel, gunboats and landing craft, battle tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and air surveillance radars. In June 2009, after the conclusion of the civil war, it signed an $891 million agreement for the Norochcholai Coal Power project. Chinese companies were granted an Economic Zone for 33 years. Huichen Investments Holdings Limited is to invest $28 million in next three years in the Mirigama Zone. For the first time a specific area was given to a foreign country. China is making major inroads into Sri Lanka, causing concern in the US-India Axis.
In the last few months of the war, Sri Lanka’s military used China’s weapons to systematically bombard what was left of the Tamil Eelam homeland. British media reported that 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed just in the last five days. Yet President Rajapakse claimed that “not one Tamil civilian was killed by military shelling.” (46)
According to the The Times (London), “aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert testimony” tell a story of the Sri Lankan’s “fierce barrage” of three weeks constant shelling in a five-kilometer area where 300,000 Tamil civilians were. The Times’ estimated that about 1,000 civilians were killed each day for three weeks until May 19. With most of the leadership dead, and tens of thousands civilians slaughtered, the LTTE surrendered.
One of The Times’ sources for these figures, and that responsibility lay with SL military, is the Catholic priest Amalraj, who was there until May 16. At the time of the article, May 29, 2009, he was interned in the militarized Manik Farm camp along with 200,000 others.
Even the editor of the “Armed Forces of the UK” magazine contended that it was not the Tigers who fired upon their own people but that is was the Sri Lankan government, which used imprecise air-burst and ground-impact mortars to annihilate anything alive.
The Times piece ended on this sad note: S.L “was cleared of any wrongdoing by the UN Human Rights Council after winning the backing of countries including China, Egypt, India and Cuba.”
This is the fourth of a five-part series.
12. Ibid. John Pilger, “Distant Voices, Desperate Lives,” New Statesman, May 13, 2009.
44. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=42075 and
46. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6383449.ece and