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Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide: Killing the MessengerTim King Salem-News.com
Slaughter of Pro-Tamil Journalists dimmed world's view of Sri Lanka Genocide. Warning: graphic images.
(SALEM, Ore.) - One sure way to keep a national genocide out of world view is to slay the journalists who would reveal the information.
Sri Lanka's president subscribes to this idea and as a result, from the time he took office in 2005 until the 2009, when the Sri Lankan government crushed the Tamil resistance; between 20,000 and 100,000 people were killed. By some accounts up to 146,000 Tamil people were disappeared or killed. Severe incidents of cruelty were widely reported and documented.
One of the first things Sri Lanka Pres. Mahinda Rajapaksa did after entering office, was shatter the fragile peace that existed in his country.
This was one thought on the minds of Tamil people and their supporters this week, as they observed the Tamil Genocide of Sri Lanka that culminated in 2009 at the conclusion of the country's long-running civil war.
A western-backed program to classify Tamil people serving in the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam) as 'terrorists' allowed the Sri Lankan government's slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians as well as military prisoners of war.
This isn't figurative, it isn't something to take lightly.
As Dr Andrew Higginbottom, the Principal Lecturer in Politics/Human Rights at Kingston University in London, explained last Thursday at the city's Mu'l'livaaykkaal Remembrance event, that the British, Europeans and the similar world powers joined Rajapaksa, playing a dubious role in disarming the peace process:
"There was a peace process. But, visas were banned and the political status was denied to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. They were branded as a terrorist organisation by the European Union under the prompting of Britain and United States and they deliberately broke the peace process, which had its horrible termination in the killing fields of Rajapaksa. So, there is co-responsibility."
He said this was not just any genocide; but that it was planned and what was planned was no secret among western governments.
And it is important to recall recent and current history; Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Nicaragua, Panama, South Africa and Northern Ireland. In each case native people were murdered by military forces while defending their nation, their neighborhoods and families, from U.S. and/or British financed military operations (Yes this includes Israel and South Africa) and in each case the resistance is dubbed 'terrorist' and the rights of said individuals, who in another context are freedom fighters, are terminated over the distinction.
Sometimes those terrorists turn out to be people like Nobel Prize Winner Nelson Mandela, and sometimes they are earth shakers deeply involved in world politics like our Correspondent Ken O'Keefe in Gaza who has and does continue to influence policy while at the same time helping the poorest and most unfortunate in a hands-on way.
It takes leaders of that caliber to pave the road for a better day, and the bridge crosses here again because both men I referred to above are prolific writers and chroniclers and their journalism absolutely opened the floodgates of interest for their respective causes, which are almost identical; South Africa and Palestine.
When the writer is killed the message sometimes dies too, and oppressors are well aware of this dynamic so they exploit it to the fullest extent.
Media Deaths: Rajapaksa Kills the Messengers
In my last report I talked about how Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's president, leads a country that, according to Reporters Sans Frontières / 'Reporters Without Borders' (RSF), was ranked at 165 of 173 listed in the annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index in 2008. Only eight of the world's known violators of press freedom ranked worse.
Reporters Sans Frontières / 'Reporters Without Borders'
(note from RSF: Things are much the same in Sri Lanka, which ranked 51st in 2002, when there was peace, but has now sunk to 141st because fighting between government and rebel forces has resumed in earnest. Dozens of Tamil journalists have been physically attacked after being accused by one side or the other of being biased against them.)
The Civil War between the Tamil resistance and the Sri Lankan government began in 1983. The LTTE was first organized in 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran.
The Tamil Tigers fought a secessionist campaign hoping to create Tamil Eelam; the proposed independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka, and also for Tamils of Indian origin.
However the violence worsened and by 1983 Sri Lanka was in a state of civil war.
This ended almost exactly three years ago.
2009 was a terrible year for the Tamil people.
This is the year that the airwaves went dark. Killing those who carry the information is one of the only proven methods of furthering illicit world politics.
It is time for the world to ask hard questions about the Genocidal events in Sri Lanka.
The most damning evidence comes in the form of photos and video that actually originated from the camera of a Sri Lanka soldier.
It is unknown if this particular soldier suffered from guilt and turned the video over, or if it surfaced some other way, regardless it did surface, about eight months after the carnage of 2009.
This is similar to the emergence of the images of My Lai in Vietnam, where U.S. soldiers slaughtered almost every resident in a village in a zone known to the Americans as 'Pinkville'.
The photos of the mass murder emerged after the particular soldier, Sgt. Ronald Haeberle, had returned home from the war. They soon became the subject of a Life magazine photo spread and largely influenced sentiment against an already vastly unpopular war.
The images of the Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka are reminiscent of the Holocaust. Piles of bodies; summary executions recorded on tape as they happened; bodies of female rape victims being tossed into the back of a truck to be driven to their burials. The female victims are all nude, many are bound, and some are clearly not dead. One was a well-known news anchor; the identity of her body in video recorded after her death sent shock waves across the world journalism community.
Death of an Esteemed Reporter
Dharmaretnam Sivaram was the driving force behind TamilNet, the Website for the Tamil Tigers, which became a useful tool for Tamils seeking critical information.
Considered to be an active champion of Tamil nationalism, both prolific and controversial, he became a reporter after leaving his role with the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam, a Tamil rebel outfit led by the charismatic left winger, Uma Maheswaran.
He also contributed to the Colombo-based English-language Daily Mirror and wrote columns in the Tamil media, including to the large-circulation Tamil daily, Virakesari. His work also appeared under the pseudonym Taraki.
"His pen started to undermine the Sinhala chauvinists’ ambitions just as the armed fighters did on the battlefield. That is why government terror was unleashed upon him."
Saluting the work of Dharmaretnam Sivaram, the popular Jaffna Tamil daily, Uthayan, said in its editorial Monday that he would remain an “inspiration to Tamil journalists with love for the nation and their people.”
Regarding the death of Dharmaretnam Sivaram, the University Teachers for Human Rights (JAFFNA) in Sri Lanks said:
The life and death of journalist Dharmaretnam Sivaram reflect the advance of impunity on both sides of the ethnic divide. A number of Sinhalese intellectuals have rightly condemed Sivaram’s murder, pointing out that he challenged them in his writings, not with a gun and that it called for a civilised political response. But the story of Sivaram cannot be told without accounting for the deep-rooted and corrupting character of Sinhalese nationalism, and its equally corrupt Tamil counterpart. Both promote violence in the name of ‘our people’ and have made life miserable for all the people of Sri Lanka.
The group XIX (Article 19) wrote at the time, that the murder of Dharmaretnam Sivaram in April 2005 happened as part of a series of attacks on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. They reported at the time that his death was not an isolated incident.
"...this week alone, six extra-judicial killings have been linked to the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the government. His murder is also a sad reminder of the increasing violence perpetrated against journalists throughout the world. According to journalist organisations, since the beginning of 2004, more than 70 journalists and media workers have lost their lives. Few if any of these murders have yet been resolved." 
2009: a Deadly Year for Media in Sri Lanka
Perhaps because it is ultra personal, I view the killing of journalists as the most foul of acts. It is cheap, wrong, non-democratic, and for the purposes of Genocide, far too effective. Sri Lanka has demonstrated this.
One headline read:
Tamil journalist killed in bombardment amounting to "war crime"
Reporters Without Borders expressed revulsion 12 Feb. 2009 over the death of Tamil journalist Punniyamurthy Sathyamurthy, who died in a Sri Lankan Army bombardment on Thevipuram, Mullaithivu district in the region of Vanni, in what media at the time described as a "war crime".
"Army air strikes and artillery fire on areas where there are tens of thousands of civilians, including Tamil journalists, are war crimes" the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
"The death of Sathyamurthy shows the extent to which witnesses to the military offensive have no protection. We call on the international community to secure a ceasefire to save the lives of these civilians," it added.
The journalist who was married and the father of a six-year old daughter, had worked for five years for Canadian Tamil Radio, Canadian Multicultural Radio and Tamil Vision International television, all based in Canada. His articles were regularly carried by websites and media of the Tamil diaspora.
Journalist Predicts Own Murder
Jonathan Steele wrote about the death of Lasantha Wickrematunge in The Guardian, Tuesday 13 January 2009:
In a 2,500 word editorial, Lasantha Wickrematunge foresaw his own death and hinted at the identity of the killers from within the ranks of Sri Lanka's government.
Steele described a gripping and detailed account of what he sees as his country's descent into persecution of citizens and flouting of democracy.
Lasantha Wickrematunge wrote:
"'When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me,' he wrote. Addressing Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapakse - a close friend - he says: 'In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death."
Wickrematunge was shot in the head in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, by two gunman on a motorcycle as he drove to work, in a manner very similar to the recent murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis.
The slaughtering of Tamil people did not stop at murder; it included bizarre acts of degrading sexual cruelty that are ten steps beyond horrifying. One of the victims of this inhumane conduct was 27-year-old Shoba, whose nom de plume was Isaippiriya.
Though identified by the Sri Lanka military as a 'Lieutenant Colonel' in the LTTE, Shoba actually suffered from health problems, never picked up a weapon, and was a media specialist with the LTTE who produced reports for TamilNet.
She was found stripped naked, with her hands tied behind her back, shot dead, as seen in a video released Channel-4. Shoba was the TamilNet Vanni correspondent. The group confirmed that she had never taken part in military operations:
“I am able to learn through those who have been at Mu'l'livaaykkaal in the final days of war, that Shoba remained unarmed and did not take part in combat," a source told TamilNet, adding that, Shoba lost her 6-month-old baby girl, named Akal, in the last stage of the war in Sri Lanka's indiscriminate bombardment on civilians.
Born in 1982, Isaippiriya attended Memorial School until Grade 5. She received a scholarship to attend Veampadi Girls High School in Jaffna until 1996.
Her family was displaced by war; they ended up in Vanni. Here Isaippiriya continued her studies until she joined the movement’s media division.
She was a gifted dancer, journalist, mother, wife and friend of many.
The loss of Isaippiriya is especially significant because she was a well-known media personality.
Yet her fate was the same as so many tens of thousands who perished violently and against their will, often in front of their parents and children, far before their earthly time was through.
I chose to highlight particular journalists who died or were very seriously wounded in 2009 and this is only a small sampling, tragically.
The sidebar on the right side with the journalist deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2007 contains a great degree of accuracy, though it may not name all of the individuals lost during those years.
One of the worst excuses used by Sri Lanka in the entire conflict is that Tamils used civilians as 'human shields' and that is why so many died. That is one of the worst excuses ever suggested for human slaughter.
We should all feel insulted, and it is highly reminiscent of Israel's excuse today for committing atrocities against the Palestinian population. The term 'human shield' should be struck from our language.
And the next word to remove is 'terrorist'. It is completely misused terminology employed by western governments to demean and strip human rights from their perceived enemies, almost all of whom crossed swords with the U.S. over an economic matter relating to oil.
Both the U.S. government and Israel are the biggest purveyors of terrorism as defined by the Webster's Dictionary. Of course the LTTE Tamil Tigers were dubbed a 'terrorist' group and this should be the point in history when we move past this type of false excuse-based branding.
Genocide is the worst possible crime that can ever be committed against humanity and those responsible for it should be taken to task and tried for their crimes.
Unregulated governments that employ cruelty and public deception to win campaigns are the scourge of the earth and it is utterly deceiving, because these governments that commit state sponsored terrorism generally project their image in positive ways through controlled media.
But when a government is willing to kidnap, rape and slaughter journalists, it reaches the boiling point. Even borderline supporters and many willing to look the other way over some military crimes, take notice when people like Dharmaretnam Sivaram, Punniyamurthy Sathyamurthy, Lasantha Wickrematunge and Shoba Isaippiriya are murdered.
The stories of the 'white vans' in Sri Lanka that disappear people routinely; the images of small children who were hanged by the neck until dead; pregnant women cut open; women who were raped and left bound; these haunt all world media, and the soldiers of Sri Lanka who participated in these heinous crimes are undoubtedly haunted by their realities of having participated. Their ranks today, like those of the Tamil survivors, must be swelling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
United Nations officials have made recent progress in researching this human calamity of Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Everything keeps pointing to Genocide, and the UN Human rights Commission needs to show the world that Genocidal crimes will never be tolerated, and that the people behind the ruthless slaughter of the Tamil people will be brought to justice, like Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia and Yugoslavia, and the Nazi leaders of the Third Reich, and others of their ilk. Real world justice, like Genocide, has no cultural or political favorites.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs
For me, all of this discussion; the Genocide that claimed tens of thousands of lives; one masked in utter secrecy due to the government's elimination of pro-Tamil journalists; the resulting Diaspora that left gaping holes in an entire culture and society, inevitably leads back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs; a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation.
Many psychology students are familiar with Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and the importance of this simple concept of human needs can not be overstated in a world so filled with grief. Wikipedia describes Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a pyramid consisting of five levels:
The lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose.
The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer be met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.
For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.
The following excerpt from the Sunday Times reveals many of the specific war crime allegations against Sri Lanka. The link at the bottom takes you to the full report with more information, very worth the read:
01. As the need for humanitarian assistance rose, it was increasingly restricted by the Government. Attempts to broker a political settlement-or even a sufficient respite in the fighting to enable the civilians to reach safety-foundred.
Sources for this report:
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