Saturday May 18, 2013
A Very Uncivil War
Tim King Salem-News.com
Sri Lanka's air force unleashes deadly rockets at civilian targets, during the 2009 Tamil Genocide. To see the completely uncensored photos, go to: Salem-News.com photo page for this story Not for the faint-hearted
This is just one part of the terrible Sri Lanka civil war under a microscope with the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Some place estimates of civilian casualties in the neighborhood of 40,000, others cite twice that many. What we know is that when the smoke cleared, after the culmination of the slaughter in May 2009, more than 160,000 Tamil people had vanished from existence.
Along with the rampant deaths and injuries from the extended, military pounding, are a host of other key, significant aspects under examination by UNHCR. One, perhaps the most disgusting, are incidents of bizarre sexual depravity, which I expand on below.
Another area of investigation- the 'white flag' surrenders of Tamil Tiger military leaders who were deceived into believing they could somehow help end the violence against civilians by surrendering to the SLA.
The sad reality always leads back to the same conclusion: that there seemed to be no real interest in avoiding violence on the part of Sri Lanka; the national government and its military forces were only bent on killing Tamils.
Hostilities first erupted between the Sri Lanka government, which represents the dominant Sinhalese Buddhist culture, and Tamil separatists, thirty years ago. This story can be defined as one of thirty years of peaceful attempts by the Tamils to preserve their equality, and thirty years of violent resistance in the form of a civil war.
What stands out among the long list of violent attacks, are the demoralizing tactics employed by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in bombing campaigns of refugee camps; repeatedly, civilians were told to go to areas that were, allegedly, demilitarized, and shortly after they entered the deplorable camps that were largely void of food and shelter, the attacks would begin and they were merciless.
Some Sinhalese advocates of the government's military action say all of the people killed were 'terrorists', which is their word for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelaam (LTTE), the 'Tamil Tigers'- a long standing and highly trained band of resistance fighters who defended the rights of the Tamil population, which accounts for about 18% of Sri Lanka, or so.
Others, I suspect even the same people on different days, in both email and story comments, say the Tigers entered the refugee camps and brought military equipment inside, and that is why the government trapped the people and killed them, transferring holdout pockets of humanity into the bloody pulp of non-existence.
Other government advocates denied that the camps were attacked at all, that is, until they were forced to recognize what happened, as they have during each step of Channel-4's official revelations.
It is a fact that officials denied allegations strongly backed up by prominent amounts of video and photo evidence; even going so far as to accuse Ch-4 of having a personal vendetta against Sri Lanka, which is ridiculous. Then, with no remaining choices, the SL government would eventually relent a little bit when the UN or a similar agency would verify the authenticity of the tapes and images.
War crimes are not something to be judged by this manner of negotiation, what it is clear is that the Rajapaksa regime is here to do what it wants to its perceived enemies, resistance fighters and otherwise, and then it practices damage control.
I know those officials are squirming in Geneva right now and hating every step of the way, it is a very sad story. There are incredible Sinhalese people who never gave their endorsement to the overwhelming military Genocide.
However like the Israeli advocates of Palestine's suffering, any manner of retaliation awaits those who utter a single word. This brings to mind the incredible resilience of present-day reporters in Colombo, who have unrelenting courage and refuse to pander to the government's wishes.
Of course Sri Lanka has also been clamping down on the last refuge of free press; Websites. Those that are not pro-government are increasingly being shut down and blocked within Sri Lanka. This boosts the importance of our coverage greatly, which the country has no control over.
The truth is that the matter is now representing Sri Lanka at large and perhaps it should. On a daily basis, government terrorism continues to plague the island: from Tamil refugees suffering in secret camps, to tourists from places like Moscow and Gaza being raped and murdered at beach-side resorts.
The infamous 'white van' disappearances continue to take place and for anyone in this country who dares support the plight of the Tamils, there is immense danger.
The SL govt song and dance and list of excuses over the perceived, 'Tamil terrorist' is a long-winded excuse for a simmering ethnic tension that is rooted in Great Britain's long running colonization of 'Ceylon', Sri Lanka's previous national name, that ended in 1948.
The British masters gave preference to Tamils, it is a situation this island culture has paid dearly for, and nearly identical in nature to the Genocide in Rwanda, where Hutu and Tutsi were divided by the colonial government, and one side given preference. In each case, it is important to recall that the Tamils were selected by the Brits to be the preferred culture, not the other way around.
Slowly, in the years following 1948, the Sinhalese tried to eliminate the Tamil culture; laws were passed that reduced rights, and it was decided that the Tamil language would be eliminated... Tamils found themselves living under apartheid laws, like South Africa and Israel.
For 30 years, Tamils sought peaceful negotiations under a non-violent premise, during which this largely Hindu and partly Christian culture, employed the rules written by Gandhi. Eventually the undeniable truth was recognized, that non-violence was not-working.
It isn't as if the Tamils didn't try long and hard, for three decades, to avoid violence.
The Tamil Tigers formed in the 1970's and by 1983, the war was growing in intensity. The Tigers learned a hard lesson when they killed 13 SLA soldiers during combat operations in a period remembered as 'Black July'.
What they discovered, was that their military achievements against government forces, would be meted by Sinhalese Buddhists attacking Tamil civilians.
Somewhere between 400 and 3000 Tamils were killed in the violence, and tens of thousands of Tamil houses destroyed. The fear from this Sinhalese mob violence created a wave of of fleeing Sri Lankan Tamils who relocated to other countries. Regardless of labels, for many people in this world, the LTTE is a heroic band of freedom fighters and while they killed non-combatants after the SLA showed Tamils how the game was played that day in Black July, they are vastly ill-portrayed.
In that context, the LTTE's accomplishments for the Tamil people; a solid infrastructure, educational system and government, are not recognized.
Then there is the most damning element; a nagging white elephant that is rarely mentioned; when the SLA moved north for the final push in 2005, after achieving the act of having the LTTE labeled as a 'terrorist group' with the help of the Bush administration, the government itself violated a standing agreement that was brokered in Oslo... a cease-fire. It is highly reminiscent of the treatment the Native Americans received during what are recalled as 'The Indian Wars', where treaties were broken frequently by the American government, almost randomly.
Elle Gunawanse, widely described as a 'firebrand' Buddhist monk, is now being appointed to the police commission in Sri Lanka. This 'religious leader' had strong links to a terrible attack on Tamil civilians 29 years ago.
Rather than being humble, Gunawanse was laden with state funds; he purchased a status symbol Pajero Jeep – a symbol of overt wealth, not exactly a humble Buddhist approach.
Sinha Ratnatunga’s (now the Editor in Chief – Sunday Times) book Politics of Terrorism: The Sri Lankan Experience released in 1988, describes Gunawanse's important role in the events of July 1983, remembered as 'Black July in Tamil Eelam. The book describes how the monk appeared at the scene of the military battle, trying to whip up the emotions of the crowd at Borella cemetery.
Gunawanse wanted to harness the anger of the crowd and turn it against the Tamils, and in this regard he had a tragic amount of success. The monk played on the alleged mutilated condition of the bodies to incite the crowd, demanding that the bodies be shown – ‘even a little dismembered finger’. That was the beginning of the holocaust.
The monk is shown on the evening of the 24th of July, asking the Army funeral authorities to show the bodies of the dead soldiers before they are interred. There is an oblique reference to in Ratnatunga’s book, that the monk who had come uninvited to the cemetery, who, that same evening, led a mob down Cotta Road, Borella, with a list in hand.
He was subsequently reported being seen at the Cinnamon Gardens Police station, having come in a jeep with a pistol tucked under his robes, demanding curfew passes. The longest reference to Gunawanse’s activities appears on page 32 regarding the events following the late night cabinet meeting on 27th July. (Read “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Rajan Hole.” for an in-depth analysis of Gunawanse’s criminal behavior and also see: Feb-20-2012: A Criminal Monk To The Police Commission)
As we have significantly documented, there were mass rapes of women and girls conducted by troops of the Sri Lanka Army. They actually recorded the aftermath of one of these escapades on their own video cameras, and those images... loading nude female rape / murder victims into the back of a truck, include statements from the soldiers who joke in extremely callous, insensitive ways about the dead, mostly dead... or soon to be dead, female victims
A soldier shockingly proclaims of one victim, that he "would like to cut her tits off". What kind of people does Sri Lanka allow into its military? In twenty years of news, covering the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and dozens of deaths, murders, and other terrible crimes; after all of that, I have never heard such foul words uttered in such a casual tone. This goes right to the very soul of humanity as far as I am concerned, creatures like this existing as armed soldiers... the mere notion of it is beyond comprehension.
The nude bodies are kicked and treated like inanimate objects, while at least one of the women is clearly still alive.
Translated dialog from Ch-4 Video
Statements of Sri Lanka soldiers
"Motherfuckin Tiger wankers!"
--then while showing bodies of what appear to be dead Tamil Tiger child soldiers---
"Hey look up" (Soldier looks at camera and makes grunting sound)
---then during the loading of female bodies--
"Bring that body... Another one"
---We have more footage, taken elsewhere, which suggests systematic murder, abuse and sexual violence---
"She seems like someone who's newly joined"
Learn more, visit: Two of Sri Lanka's Foulest War Crimes
The above translations from Sinhala to written English were performed by Channel-4 in London and they are indisputable. As Presenter Jon Snow said, "These disturbing scenes raise extremely serious questions for the government of Sri Lanka."
This is the same military organization connected to terrible sex crimes in Haiti, where members of the SLA were deployed as part of UN peacekeeping forces, there to assist earthquake victims.
Sri Lanka has a running history of severe corruption and the war crime allegations are enough to put it over the edge.
The only thing they are really even facing, is the implementation of their own measures as proposed by the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), it's own government investigation, and it barely attributes any wrongdoing to Sri Lanka, it blames the LTTE for everything, it scarcely scratches the surface of what took place, and this they vehemently resist?
The obvious problem is that this needs to be addressed in a serious way, like the Nuremberg Trials, not just to have a hand slap be the total extent of their punishment.
Even though it is terribly biased toward the SL govt, the LLRC report does contain sound recommendations and at a minimum, this will be a start of something that can grow.
I have been written to by hundreds of people over our ongoing coverage of these matters involving Sri Lanka, and I want to make a point, and that is the main reason I have gotten into this so deeply, is because I am a father, and a son, and a brother, husband and uncle.
I have the greatest hope that future generations can heal this planet, end the suffering, straighten out the crooked thinking and religion-dominated governments that leads to so much dramatic tragedy.
When I see the murdered Tamil children, it sends a chill down my spine and it is hard to look at the results of such cruel, calculated killing, just like in Gaza, without really wanting to do something about it.
I refuse and will always refuse to endorse any government that subjects people to such horrible oppression; so fierce and unyielding that that the only answer is armed retaliation and resistance. This is the story of the Tamil Tigers and other resistance organizations that are exactly the opposite of 'terrorists' to the people they support and protect.
This brings us to an interesting point about the Tamil struggle. When they tried for three decades to avoid violence, they found themselves deeper in the same struggle, no amount of political exchange could reverse the trends increasingly challenging this culture of people.
Non-violent resistance has won battles, major ones like the Civil Rights period in the United States that began in the 1950's and culminated in the 1960's. While non-violence is the bottom line, and the best approach, there is a point where it is weak and foolish and cowardly. It was Gandhi who said:
I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.... I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour.
To see the completely uncensored photos, go to: Salem-News.com photo page for this story Not for the faint-hearted
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
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