Comparing the May 2009 mass killings that Tamils in the North-East were subjected to and which the Sri Lankan state remains accused of, to the present situation of the Palestinians in Gaza, TNPF leader and MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam accused Sri Lankan ministers of being hypocritical in calling for UN intervention in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
This is “genocide”
Referring to Israel’s decision to prevent Palestinians of access to electricity, food, fuel and medicine and the al-Ahli Arab Hospital bombing on 17 October 2023 which is believed to have killed at least 500 Palestinians, Ponnambalam said that this is “genocide”.
“What is happening today in the name of fighting terrorism, is a genocide,” said Ponnambalam. “When people are put in a war situation, and when they are then deprived of food, medicine and water, there can be only one intention: to destroy that population in whole or in part and that is what is happening. To deliberately target the most vulnerable places, where the sick and the young will seek refuge in hospitals, you cannot have any other intentions.”
“When you ask people to go to a particular area, to seek safe refuge and then bomb that vicinity, that can’t surely be fighting terrorism," Ponnambalam added.
Blatant hypocrisy and empty talk
Referring to Sri Lankan opposition leader Sajith Premadasa’s motion calling the state to urge the United Nations to convene its Security Council for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Ponnambalam pointed at the hypocrisy of it.
Ponnambalam accused the state ministers of merely having economic self-interest at heart in its support for the Palestinians. “I am quite surprised, but cynically so, that this House today is unanimous in calling for a ceasefire… and in insisting on a negotiated solution,” said Ponnambalam.
Premadasa has a track record of opposing any international involvement on accountability for war crimes committed in Sri Lanka. Although tens of thousands of Tamils were massacred in the state-declared “No-Fire Zone” in Mullivaikkal, Premadasa has staunchly opposed UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the issue.
“Other than the Tamil parties seated in this House, 15 years ago, when what is happening in Gaza happened in this country in the North-East, what Israel is doing today is what all these other members (pointing at the House) did to the Tamils. When there were over 400,000 civilians, food and medicine was only sent to 70,000.”
Referring to Sri Lanka and Israel, Ponnambalam said,
“you declare safe-zones and go along to bomb those zones. You bomb hospitals deliberately.” “At least, let the Palestinian people be saved from what is clearly the orchestration of genocide”.
Two-state solution and root causes
Expressing TNPF’s support for the two-state solution, Ponnambalam also stressed that historically “the Palestinian people had to compromise more”.
The issue is “the non-implementation of the two-state solution”, he said. “And quite the contrary, it is the deliberate dismantling of the future Palestinian state that is causing this conflict and that is aggravating this situation.”
Ponnambalam pointed at the need to address and solve the root causes to solve conflicts, such as that between Israel and Palestine.
The failure to do so would mean that “there will be actions taken by the aggrieved party to in some way pressure those who are causing the problem to correct it”, added Ponnambalam. “As long as we deny that and blame the reaction to that problem as opposed to the problem itself, we will never find a solution.”
Speaking on behalf of all Tamil political parties, he said,
“We believe that the Jewish nation requires a state, they must be secure, they must be peaceful, they have the right to exist… as much as we believe that the Sinhala nation in this country must be at peace – but not …at the expense of others”. “You cannot prosper by trampling the rights of others and by doing that, you will never find solutions,” he reiterated.
Ponnambalam concluded his speech by urging the members of the House to learn lessons from the Middle East and apply them to Sri Lanka.