03 March 2009
The people of Vanni are being savaged by the Sri Lankan state with the support of the international community. Having hemmed over 250,000 terrified Tamils into an enclave in their home district of Mullaitivu, the Sinhala military is attacking them with artillery, rockets, cluster bombs and incendiaries. Having unilaterally and arbitrarily defined what it mockingly calls a 'safe zone', President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government is confidently slaughtering the terrified civilians who fled into it. Over two thousand Tamil people, including seven hundred children, have been killed in the past two months. For months the government has maintained a blockade. Each day dozens of wounded civilians bleed to death for lack of medical supplies. Deaths from starvation have now begun.
The international community is well aware of all this. UN and ICRC staff from inside the Mullaitivu enclave are providing daily briefings. So are their colleagues in Vavuniya and Colombo. The UN's satellites have accurate pictures of the refugee camps, as well as the shelling and bombing and the dying. The British government admitted in Parliament that the Colombo government is prepared to commit acts of genocide. If it so wishes, the international community could stop the carnage; it is a fiction that this impoverished, indebted island state cannot be bent to the will of the world.
Yet, for all that talk in the past few years about 'Responsibility to Protect', 'international humanitarian law', 'human rights' and so on, what we are seeing is simply indifference to the slaughter of the Tamils. A myriad of Tamil protests, petitions and pleas have failed to produce a response. Much was expected when the UN sent one of its top humanitarian officials. He came, he saw, he praised the murderous regime in Colombo and then he went. Human Rights Watch report issued a shocking report on the very day Sir John Holmes - accompanied by a Sri Lankan minister and the military - toured one of the government's concentration camps in Vavuniya. It was simply ignored. The briefing he gave to the UN Security Council was devoid of criticism of the government.
Instead, the international community continues to blame the Liberation Tigers. Apparently, it is the LTTE, not the Sinhala state, that is the cause of the Tamils' suffering. And instead of pressing the Sinhala state to stop its genocidal attacks, the international community is offering to evacuate the people from Mullaitivu to the concentration camps in Vavuniya and Jaffna. In the past two decades, one in four Tamils have been driven from their homes - either abroad or to squalid refugee camps in the island. The international community is content with this. Yet, the Tamils must be handed over to the Sinhala state.
When the Serbian military laid siege to Sarajevo for three years, the UN ran food convoys to the Bosniak people. It did not offer to evacuate them from their homes into Serb-run camps. When the Sudanese military and militia began massacring the people of Darfur, there was no question of moving them into government-run concentration camps. Yet, apparently the Tamils must be handed over to Sinhala state.
As we have argued before, the suffering being heaped on our people by the Sinhala military and the international community is for one purpose: to make us give up our demand for self-determination and submit to Sinhala hegemony. Indeed, that is why for the past three decades, the state has been able to brutalize our people with absolute impunity. At no stage has the international community intervened to protect us. Never has it stood up for us. Instead it has always praised the Sinhala ethnocracy as a democracy and lavished aid, weapons and political support.
The vehemence of the international-backed onslaught against Tamil civilians is a direct consequence of the ferocity of LTTE resistance to the Sinhala military. Whilst Colombo holds forth coloured maps and pictures of the debris of war it has captured, it hides the bloody war of attrition underway inside those parts of Vanni over which the Lion flag was raised. Contrary to the hopes and expectations of the international community, the LTTE is not going to buckle this time either, despite the redoubled efforts of the Sinhala state.
This is the key lesson for the Tamils: the future the international community envisages for our people - and thinks appropriate for us - is to be incarcerated in concentration camps and subject to the whim of the Sinhalese. If we wish any other future, then we must take our own steps to shape it. And unless the Tamils have the protection of our own state with our own armed forces, we will always be at risk from the Sinhala state.