17 February 2009
The Sri Lankan armed forces have massacred over two thousand Tamil civilians in Vanni during the past two months. This is not happening in secret, out of the world's gaze, but in plain sight. The horrific details of the Sri Lankan artillery bombardment and airstrikes are made available every day by a flood of data, pictures and footage. No Tamil can fail to be shaken by the murderous fanaticism of the Sinhala state and, especially, the complicit silence of the international community. The present is thus an important moment in Tamil national consciousness.
Whilst some Tamil voices, including this newspaper, have often questioned the sincerity of the international community when it comes to the security and well-being of the Tamil people, others have decried such 'nationalism' and, projecting themselves as 'moderates', sought to enlist international support towards Tamils' aspirations - in the form of federalism, say. We have consistently argued that it is not the demand for Tamil Eelam that is the problem in Sri Lanka, but institutionalized Sinhala violence and oppression. Therefore, no ‘solution’ would suffice unless it could guarantee our people protection from Sri Lanka's genocide.
Those 'moderates' who criticized the 'nationalists' for insisting on Eelam based their vision of a secure future for the Tamils one claim: the preparedness, even commitment, of the international community to intervene on the Tamils behalf if Sinhala violence against our people resumed. Indeed, the United States even went so far as to offer this; for example in a 2003 interview to Reuters, US Ambassador Ashley Wills had this to say: "I've heard Tamils say that they may not like the LTTE's tactics but they need the Tigers to protect them. I think that's completely wrong. …. Now that the world is paying attention to Sri Lanka as never before, the international community will be watching closely to see that no one's rights get abused systematically."
Well, the present speaks for itself. The duplicity of the international community's 'support' for the peace process (which equates, for them, to disarming the LTTE) is underlined by their ongoing support for Sri Lanka's genocide. Throughout the Norwegian led 'peace process', the international community insisted repeatedly that the Tamils and the Tigers are separate. But their present actions reveal they do not really think so: it is in the interests of breaking the LTTE's resistance to the Sinhala state's onslaught that the Tamils are being massacred.
For some time now, the end of the LTTE has been confidently predicted. The Sri Lanka Army commander boasted in January that the LTTE is no match for the 50,000 Sinhala troops advancing on Mullaitivu. Yet, the war grinds on - amid a near total blackout of the battlefield imposed by Colombo (save for the daily claims put forward by the Defence Ministry). Yet in the jungles and fields of Vanni, the Sri Lankan military is incurring casualties so heavy it dare not allow discussion amongst the Sinhalese. Between Feb 1 and Feb 4 a key SLA divisions was so badly mauled by an LTTE counter-attack that it has been pulled out of battle. Sri Lankan garrisons in other parts of the island are being thinned out - and police being drafted in - to sustain the war. In short, the Tigers are staging their signature ferocious resistance.
It is amid the Sinhala state's manifest inability to break the LTTE's will to resist that the Tamils of Vanni are being punished. Targeting the enemy population to demoralise their combatants is not new - that's why the US, for example, slaughtered the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The massacres in Vanni are the continuation of what Prof. Sankaran Krishna has termed "annihilatory violence" inflicted by the Sinhalese against the Tamils since independence. Yet the Tamils refuse to submit to Sinhala rule.
The key lesson for the Tamils today is the futility of relying on international support, on the basis of justice, human rights and such. The Tamil nation is making every effort to get Western states and other self-appointed trustees of liberal values to live up to their lofty ideals. These efforts are important for one reason; if - contrary to the claims of Tamil 'nationalists' - the international community is truly committed to these values (in the name of which they sought to deny and crush our justified demands for self-determination), then the Tamil people's agitation will elicit a principled response. If not, the Tamils can be certain that it is callous indifference, rather than ignorance, that guides international policy towards them. They will then, like other peoples who united behind the goal of independence, have to reflect on how, on their own, they can ensure Sri Lanka's genocide does not succeed.