Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sri Lanka: Is the LTTE a Master Class in genocide?

Republished for information and discussion only. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Mike Hitchen Consulting.

Author: Dilrook Kannanagara

The last decade of the twentieth century started with promising news for the world. Communism fell in Europe and democracy got a new lease of life through out the world. However, that decade also had some of the most gruesome acts of genocide the world has seen in the recent past. The Rwandan genocide followed by the genocide in Bosnia-Serbia reminded the earthlings that things can turn very nasty within a matter of few days. However, in both these instances, pre-historic barbarianism was the modus operandi of the perpetrators of genocide.

Their act was swift with a short planning stage followed by a few bloody weeks. Also the perpetrators were mostly self-proclaimed aggrieved civilians armed with weapons with or without the active support of the armed forces. Indonesia witnessed similar acts of horror in a lower scale following the financial crisis and some incidents crept into the twenty-first century as well; most notably the Dayak-Madura battles in some islands.

However, there is a rebel/terrorist group that does it better; its name is LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) commonly known as Tamil Tigers. They have mastered the art of modern day genocide just as they mastered modern day suicide bombings.

Most suicide attackers around the world follow the kamikaze method which is characterized by a deep personal commitment to a cause done without much outside compulsion; it is the individual that takes the centre-stage in deciding the time, the target and the individual can, subject to some humiliation, pull out from the mission.

However Tamil Tigers are different. They catch the bombers young, some as young as ten years old and train them over the years. Brigades of thousands of suicide bombers are maintained at all times to be used against an assortment of targets at times decided solely by the terror leader. A potassium cyanide capsule is tied to the neck at their passing out ceremony to be consumed if the suicide mission fails. Therefore it is more about the death of the suicide bomber than the mission. As a result there is no room for change of mind.

Tamil tigers' genocide strategy also follows this approach. Unlike the pre-historic barbaric methods as explained above, the LTTE carefully selects its target area, victims, timing, the method and even propaganda to follow. Tamil Tigers have committed genocide against a wide array of persons with the same objective in mind. Their first genocide victim was a Tamil democratic politician in 1975; thus started the 'genocide' of all Tamil democratic political activists the LTTE could lay their dirty hands on carefully sparing a few who support them. To this date thousands of Tamil political activists have been brutally killed including a Tamil foreign minister. Why is it genocide and not just mass murder?

The answer lies in the objective behind their killing. All these victims propagated a democratic society with a multi-cultural set-up where people belonging to all racial groups live together. Tamil tigers are committed to the creation of a Tamil-only mono-ethnic 'homeland' for Tamils and hence do not tolerate any other views, especially popular views. At the same time Tamil Tigers targeted Tamil intellectuals who held different views. From university students, university lecturers to university chancellors and scholars, tigers killed a large number of Tamil intellectuals.

In doing so they succeeded in silencing independent Tamil thinkers in Sri Lanka. Cultural activities, sports and recreational activities of the Sri Lankan Tamil populace were also targets of the LTTE. The North-East of the country that was bustling with sports activities before 1983 came to a grinding halt; playgrounds were deliberately vandalized by the rebels and sport was seen as a rival to guerrilla training and was hence banned. The same fate befell on cultural activities; apart from promoting LTTE propaganda, all other cultural activities were stopped. As a result, the Sri Lankan Tamil community failed to contribute effectively to the global Tamil culture. Today, all Tamil movies, songs, dramas and other artwork originate either from Tamil Nadu or Malaysia and noticeably none from Sri Lanka thanks to the Tigers. However, Tigers try to promote with a lot of effort, their promotional artwork around the world. Unfortunately for them their efforts have failed to attract the Tamil masses and even fund raising campaigns in London, etc. for the LTTE stage Tamil Nadu artists!

Of course Tamil Tigers didn't forget Tamil civilians. It is no secret that the decades-old conflict has killed more Tamil civilians than civilians of other races and most were killed by the LTTE. Today the North-East which the Tamil Tigers claim the 'Tamil homeland' has the lowest population density in South Asia among livable areas. Tamils have internally migrated to other parts of the country where the majority community is the Sinhalese; 54% of all Tamils in Sri Lanka now live among the other races outside what the Tamil Tigers call the 'Tamil homeland'. This is a clear act of genocide against the Tamils by the LTTE.

One other genocidal act of the LTTE is the mass forcible recruitment of children as suicide bombers and fighters. The 2002 Norway brokered ceasefire agreement (CFA) was a massive boon for the LTTE to recruit a very large number of children, some as young as ten, into their brigades. According to UN bodies more than 5,000 children were abducted by the Tamil Tigers in the first two years of the truce alone. The comical truce that officially came to an end in 2008 was very similar to the non-application of the International Law to armed groups. Armed terror groups can violate the International Law any number of times at will and they are immune to punishment; so was the truce that allowed the LTTE a free hand in committing a plethora of offences under the International Law. Essentially the CFA became a genocidal instrument for the tigers with no checks on them.

There are two other main races, namely the Sinhalese (the national majority) and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Barbaric genocidal acts were committed by the LTTE against these two races that far outweigh Rwanda and Bosnia in terms of their effects.

Hundreds of thousands of Sinhalese and Muslims were ethnically 'cleansed' by the LTTE from the North and parts on the East. The 1990 Muslim genocide (it was indeed genocide by the definition though only a few were actually killed) in the Jaffna district was monumental and still a few hundred thousand of these Internally Displaced Muslims live in refugee camps hundreds of kilometres away from their homes. The Eastern theatre was bloodier as residents didn't comply with LTTE's ethnic cleansing orders. Thousands were killed brutally in primitive style in villages, busses, schools, temples, mosques, churches and in farms by the LTTE. The most recent LTTE genocidal attack came this month (January 2008) in South-East Sri Lanka where a large number of civilians were deliberately targeted by the LTTE.

Further acts of mass killing were carried out in Colombo and other areas outside the battlefield. Additionally Tigers continue to target civilian infrastructure in order to cripple civilian lives.

As a result of island-wide genocide unleashed by the LTTE, many Sri Lankans prefer to migrate to other countries. A country with around 12% English fluency records a net emigration rate of over 1.5% and rising due to acts of terrorism and the resultant environment of fear and economic calamity.

Today Tamil Tigers control a sizable area in the North where more than 300,000 civilians (all of them Tamils) are trapped. The slightest opportunity they get, they opt to run away from Tiger control. The Sri Lankan government has started a military campaign to liberate these civilians and Tamil Tigers increasingly find their subjects unmanageable as they team-up with the Sri Lankan armed forces. However, rich Tamils living in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and Europe fund the LTTE to continue violence in Sri Lanka.

In this context, some UN agencies bully sovereign Sri Lanka while keeping silent about the LTTE. This is a classic case of double standards by the UN in applying the International Law to legitimate entities while not applying it to armed groups. If UN agencies are akin to a referee in a boxing match, this referee would do nothing other than tying the arms of one boxer while the other beats him. No wonder armed groups are thriving across the world; even the superpowers are relying on armed groups to get their dirty jobs done.

What's more, any UN involvement in conflicts where such an armed group is involved turns even nastier as rebels are free to do essentially whatever they want. In the Sri Lankan context, there are many anti-Sri Lankan organizations operating freely in Sri Lanka harping about alleged human rights violations by the government but there aren't many organizations to talk about LTTE violations as the LTTE has a zero tolerance policy towards such organisations. Most of those who talked against LTTE crimes in Sri Lanka were killed with ease including the Deputy of the Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat in 2006 during the infamous ceasefire! This is like the case of an abused housewife who is prevented from seeking police help by an abusive and violent husband!

For the UN, Sri Lanka is unimportant with its paltry contribution of about USD 327 thousand annually vis-…-vis some larger financiers. There even exists the possibility that Tamil Tigers can influence UN staff by misinformation, misdirection, misfeasance and other forms of malice.

The partial application of the International Law and threats of such partial application on the legitimate party to the conflict (by UN staff members and other jokers) have bolstered terrorist groups immensely. If a nation wants to commit genocide against another nation or a community it has a lot to learn from the LTTE; the first step in such an enterprise should be to form an armed group like the LTTE. Then it is just easy cruising along the path until the objective is achieved. All terrorist groups, the Tamil Tigers in particular have been extremely lucky in getting away with genocide; this has even further emboldened them to commit more acts of genocide. They say luck favours the brave! Although the barbaric Tamil Tigers were never brave, they have always been lucky.

Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

For a different perspective - Sri Lanka's Human Rights Void by William Baxter in Towards Freedom