FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Post-War Internment Hell for Tamils

by RON RIDENOUR

“The impunity with which the Sri Lankan government is able to commit these crimes [referring to 2009 war atrocities, including brutal internment of 300,000 Tamils] actually unveils the deeply ingrained racist prejudice that is precisely what led to the marginalization and alienation of the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the first place. That racism has a long history – of social ostracism, economic blockades, pogroms and torture. The nature of the decades-long civil war, which started as a peaceful protest, has its roots in this,” wrote author Arundhati Roy. (47)

“`This is something similar to what occurred in Gaza or worse, because neither observers nor journalists had access to the war zone, ´ stated a UN source who asked for anonymity. The army acknowledges that 6,200 soldiers and 22,000 guerrillas died in the last three years of the longest civil war in Asia. The UN affirms that between 80,000 and 100,000 persons died in the conflict,” wrote Elisa Reche of Prensa Marea Socialista. (48)“During the war,” Reche continued, “the army had 200,000 troops. Now with peace, 100,000 are being incorporated…A strange peace it is that requires more troops than in actual combat.”

More troops are needed because systematic ethnic cleansing is now the order of the day for the Tamil people. Their Homeland will be obliterated by introducing more Sinhalese settlers. This is what M.K. Bhadrakumar, an ambassador for India who served in Sri Lanka and other countries, wrote about the day after Sri Lanka declared victory.“See, they have already solved the Tamil problem in the eastern provinces…The Tamils are no more the majority community in these provinces. Similarly, from tomorrow, they will commence a concerted, steady colonization program of the Northern provinces where Prabhakaran reigned supreme for two decades. They will ensure incrementally that the northern regions no more remain as Tamil provinces…Give them a decade at the most. The Tamil problem will become a relic of the bloody history of the Indian sub-continent.” (49)

Ethnic cleansing goes hand-in-hand with the policy of imprisoning and mistreating hundreds of thousands of Tamils. For more than a year before its military victory, the Sri Lanka government enticed Tamils, wishing to flee the war zone, into so-called ‘welfare’ centers or villages. Tens of thousands became ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP), and are thus subject to United Nations regulations concerning decent living conditions, food and water, freedom of movement and the right to leave and rejoin families. All these rights and necessities have been denied them.

“Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy,” President J.R. told the Daily Telegraph, (UK) on July 11, 1983.A quarter-century later, the current president is striving to fulfill his predecessor’s genocidal intentions. Mahinda Rajapakse has claimed that no IDP is held against his/her will and all are treated well. However, the few United Nations visitors—there are no official investigators into abuses since the Human Rights Council majority blocked such a possibility—who come to observe have quite another picture.When UN’s political chief, Lynn Pascoe, visited camps in September he said people were not free or well treated…”this kind of closed regime goes directly against the principles under which we work in assisting IDPs all around the world.” (50)Rajapakse told Pascoe another tale about “free movement”. He said that detention was necessary because the army was clearing the area for mines, and it was still looking for guerrillas hiding among civilians. However, as the UN resident coordinator reported, and Amnesty quoted (50): “Under international humanitarian law, captured combatants…may be held pending the cessation of hostilities. Once active hostilities have ceased, prisoners of war must be released `without delay´.”At of July, there were 9,400 individuals with purported links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)  held separately from the rest of the population. They have not been released nearly half-a-year after internment.Amnesty also reported that the camps are clearly militarized. The 19-member Presidential Task Force established in mid-May “to plan and coordinate resettlement, rehabilitation and development of the Northern Province” is headed Major General  Chandrasiri, who was also appointed governor of the province. All inmates are enclosed by barbed-wire fences, guarded and brutalized by well-armed soldiers. “Arrests have been reported from the camps and Sri Lankan human rights defenders have alleged that enforced disappearances have also occurred,” wrote Amnesty.“Sri Lanka’s history of large-scale enforced disappearances dating back to the 1980s, and the lack of independent monitoring…raises grave concerns that enforced disappearances and other violations of human rights may be occurring…Previous research [shows] that [persons] suspected by the government of being members or supporters of LTTE are at grave risk of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance, and torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

“Although the government calls these facilities `welfare villages´ , they are effectively detention camps…”. Amnesty also reported that not only are people not free to move as they wish, women and girls are raped by soldiers, and people live in sewage, disease-infested conditions, with little food and water and medical attention. They die in droves because of these imposed conditions.Women and children are especially mistreated, which was the subject that James Elder, spokesperson for UNICEF, complained about to Sri Lankan authorities, who then expelled him from the country. Elder described the “unimaginable suffering” of children caught in the fighting, including babies he had seen with shrapnel wounds. (51)United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had refrained from criticizing Sri Lanka’s government, leveling his critique only at LTTE for carrying out atrocities. But less than a week after the end of the war, he told CNN after briefly visiting Manik Farm, the most presentable of Sri Lanka’s squalid and dangerous internment camps for Tamils civilians “I have traveled around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scenes I have seen…I sympathize fully with all of the displaced persons.” The UN Chief has also promised international action regarding the heavy shelling of civilian populations during the recent fighting.(52)

Out of the 280,000 IDPs afterthe end of the war (there were nearly one-half million over a year’s period), only between 15,000 and 40,000 had been released by November 1. Half of them, perhaps, have been ransomed. The “Sunday Times” wrote about “human trafficking at the internment camps”. Relatives were made to pay camp authorities in order to secure their release. (53)

Future

A week after the end of the war, the LTTE communicated that several of its leaders were killed, but the organization would continue struggling for an independent Tamil Eelam in peaceful ways. July 22, the LTTE announced that its chief of international relations, Selvarsa Pathmanathan—known as KP—was made the new leader, and that a new strategy for a “free Tamil Eelam” would occur. (54). On August 8, The Independent (UK) wrote that Pathmanathan was under arrest by Sri Lanka and held incommunicado. (55)
Our task must be to press for the lives and rights of the Tamil people. Australia’s Democratic Socialist Perspective and Socialist Alliance said it well in its October 2009 international situation report:

“Now the Tamil struggle has entered a new phase. The immediate campaign must focus on defence of basic human rights, release and resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons currently held in SL government concentration camps, an end to murders, torture, rapes, and provision of basic housing, food and drinking water to the Tamil people under brutal occupation.” (8)

It’s a matter of basic ethics. Life shall not be abused or destroyed by our conscious hand. A moral person, organization, political party, government acts in daily life and in the struggle for justice with that ethic in mind.

RON RIDENOUR has written,”Cuba at the Crossroads”“, “Backfire: The CIA’s Biggest Burn”, Yankee Sandinistas, and many articles about Cuba.

This is the last of a five part series.

Notes:
47. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/01/sri-lanka-india-tamil-tigers
48. http://www.aporrea.org/imprime/a79295.html
49. http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_55839.shtml
50. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=a_SMjax2xKq8
51. www.csmonitor.com/2009/0921/p06s06-wosc.htm
52. http://malaysiasms.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/sri-lanka%E2%80%99s-camps-%E2%80%98most-appalling%E2%80%99-in-the-world-%E2%80%93-ban-ki-moon/
53. “Doing the Right Thing in Sri Lanka”, Rohini Hensman, 1/10, www.dissidentvoice.org
54. http://www.tamilnation.org/ltte/international_relations/090722kp_leader.htm
55. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/new-tamil-tiger-overseas-head-captured-1769210.html

8. http://www.dsp.org.au/node/229

 

Ron Ridenour can be reached through his website: www.ronridenour.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail