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Sri Lanka

Tamils are being forced into the arms of their tormentors

The truth is that
the Tamil region is
the ‘Gaza of South
Asia’, writes
Jude Lal
Fernando

ACCORDING to UN
figures almost 6,500
ethnic Tamils have been
killed and over 14,000 injured during
the last three months of the Sri
Lankan army offensive.

Tamils state that the figures are
much higher. Instead of putting the
necessary pressure on the Sri Lankan
government to stop the war, the US
and the United Nations are allowing
the slaughter to escalate.

It is as if the Israeli attack on the
Palestinians was allowed to continue
for over four times the period with
four times the casualties.

One of the main reasons that this
barbarity is allowed to continue is
because the conflict in Sri Lanka is
being depicted as a conflict between
two parties where the innocent
civilians are trapped, killed, maimed
and wounded in their thousands. Such
a depiction conceals the reality of the
conflict.

According to the most influential
alliance partners of the ruling Sri
Lankan government, the Jathika Hela
Urumaya (JHU National Heritage
Party) — those who are trapped in
the LTTE held areas cannot be called
innocent civilians, as they are the kith
and kin of the Tamil Tigers and they
are legitimate targets of the government’s
“war against terror” to
safeguard the unitary Sinhala Buddhist
state.

For the political elite that form the
Sinhala mindset, the Tamils who had
decided freely to live in the Vanni
area, controlled by the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), for
about 15 years have to be punished
and tormented until their will is
completely broken and they submit to
Sinhala rule.

For over two years now the Sri
Lankan military offensive has, through
the sheer force of continuous bombardment,
shrunk the area under
LTTE control from 15,000sq km to 5sq km. The objective is to put as
much pressure on the Tamils so that
they flee into the hands of the Sri
Lankan soldiers despite the fact they
will be incarcerated in Government
detention camps for an unlimited
time period — a massive version of
Guantanamo — where according to
a German NGO, rape, torture and
executions happen continuously.

As Anne Marie Loof, Medecins
Sans Frontieres head of mission for Sri
Lanka, puts it: “A few weeks ago
people were scared to leave because of
their fear of the Sri Lanka Army, but
now they are terrified of staying.”

What is going on in Sri Lanka is in
reality a war against the Tamil
population in the north and east of
the country to maintain Sinhala
supremacist rule. As a Tamil demonstrator
in London said: “It is not the
LTTE which is holding the Tamil
people as a human shield, it is we, the
Tamils, who want the Tigers to be
our human shield against the Sri
Lankan state.”

It is this subjugation which has
reached its peak today that the Tamils
have been opposing for 60 years in the form of a Tamil national movement.

For 30 years, since independence in
1948, the Tamils have struggled
non-violently for their democratic
rights — which were met with brutal
armed force and hysterical racial terror
promoted by Sinhala-dominated Sri
Lankan governments. During the
elections of 1977 the Tamils in the
north and east voted overwhelmingly
for the programme of the non-violent
parliamentary party the TULF (Tamil
United Liberation Front), which won
a mandate for an independent state —
only to be excluded from the Sri
Lankan parliament.

It is only after the failure of 30 years
of systematic Ghandian-style protests
that the armed struggle emerged and
steadily gained support.
In fact, during the last general
elections in 2004 the TNA (Tamil
National Alliance) got an even larger
proportion of the popular vote than
the TULF had in 1977. The TNA
won on the basis that the LTTE had
the sole right to negotiate on behalf of
the Tamils in the north and east.

A petition to the EU — signed by
around 100 academics, human rights
activists and artists in Europe (including
30 from Ireland) — made an appeal
as follows: “Tens of thousands of
Tamil refugees that had been expelled
from their homes in the east of the
island by the military operations of the
GoSL more than two years ago, like
the hundreds of thousands from the
Jaffna peninsula more than15 years
ago, have yet to be able to return,
because large parts of their homeland
have been declared high-security
zones and occupied by the Sri Lankan
armed forces.”

In the case of the recent Israeli
military onslaught in Gaza, even those
who opposed Hamas condemned the
Israeli invasion and demanded a halt
to the invasion of Palestinian territory.
In the case of the Tamil region what
is being promoted by the international
community is to lead the Tamils into
detention camps of their tormentors.
The untold truth is that the Tamil
Region is the ‘Gaza of South Asia’
where the Tamils, like the Palestinians
in Gaza, have a right to live.

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Las opiniones y conslusiones expresadas en el siguiente artículo son de exclusiva responsabilidad del autor y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del CETRI.

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