Sri Lanka’s Will to War
Sri Lanka’s Will to War
By Rajesh Suntharamoorthy
As the year draws to an end, no amount of peace rhetoric can disguise a powerful atmosphere of doom and gloom engulfing the Tamil Homeland. Not a single one of the nine districts have been spared of arbitrary killings, abductions and unfair imprisonment. Everywhere it seems, grenades are exploding, soldiers are opening indiscriminate fire and scores are being killed in what increasingly looks like a return to all out civil war.
Everyday the international media –Reuter, BBC and the Indian papers- report of grenade attacks, mine blasts and gun fire killing Sri Lanka Army (SLA) personals. Judging by these stories, one may be forgiven for assuming that the Tamils are a blood thirsty bunch of terrorists, determined to blow up innocent soldiers who are merely going on about their day to day lives.
The truth could not be further away. They say there are always two sides to every story. The Tamil side it seems is not worthy of being reported in the international media. As far as the international media is concerned the killing of innocent farmers that prompted mine blasts in Jaffna and the gang rape and murder of a 20 year old girl that prompted a mine blast in Mannar are just irrelevant and unrelated. Everyone seems to be all too careful to maintain a record of the number of soldiers killed in what has been the bloodiest month since the signing of the Cease Fire. At the same time nobody seems to care of the innocent civilians who have perished during the same month. It seems that the lives of the four year old child burnt to death in Mannar and the retired bakery worker shot to death in Jaffna are simply not valuable enough for a mention in the international media.
So what has been really happening over the past 31 days? Is there a possible end to this cycle of violence between the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and the Tamil civilians? It appears that a chronological analysis of events is necessary to grasp the true reality of the situation.
Thursday, December 01, 2005 – Targeting Tamil patriots
Sri Lanka Military Intelligence (SLMI) shot and killed two farmers at a tea shop close to Athiyar Hindu College in Neerveli. The victims, Mr. Kunaratnam Krishnakumar (34) and Mr. Sinnaiah Sivakaran (24) were both involved in decorating the streets in Neerveli during the Martyrs remembrance week.
Frustrated by the cowardly attacks of the SLA to silence Tamil patriots, the residents of Jaffna called for a general shut down protest to be observed on the following day. A handbill issued in the name of Roaring People's Force (RPF) –a group that had been unheard of in the past- warned that reprisal attacks on SLA soldiers and intelligence operatives will escalate if attacks against Tamil activists and civilians continued.
The mine attacks targeting SLA troops in Jaffna during the second week of December were the promised reprisals by the RPF. In other words had the SLA not murdered the innocent civilians in Neerveli, there would have not been any mine attacks. This is the truth that many international media organizations are either unable or unwilling to accept.
Friday, December 16, 2005 – Rape as a weapon
Miss. Tharsini IlayaThambi (20) disappeared while on her way to an aunt’s home in Punguduthivu 7th district. The following day her body was found in an abandoned well near the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) camp in Punguduthivu. The young victim had been abducted, raped, tortured, murdered and mutilated by the SLN. Postmortem examinations had revealed that the victim had been subjected to sexual violence before being murdered. They also found bite marks on the victim’s hands, legs and face. A deep stab wound to the chest was also present. What's more her gentiles had been mutilated. Examinations further reveled that the victim was gagged and her legs were tied together, before she was tied to a rock and thrown in to the abandoned well.
Deeply shocked by the horrific nature of the crime, the Tamil Nation erupted in protest on Sunday, December 18. A fifty-five years old civilian from Punguduthivu had to be rushed to Jaffna Hospital with serious gunshot wounds after the SLN opened fire on protesters. In a strongly worded statement the RPF warned that it will use ‘all means necessary to drive out the criminals who are occupying’ the Tamil Homeland.
Once again the RPF kept to its words. This time an SLN convey in Mannar was to pay the price for the brutal gang rape and murder committed in Punguduthivu. A claymore mine blast killed 13 sailors in Pesalai area of Mannar. Although over 300 news outlets reported the mine blast, none made any effort to point out the fact that, it was in fact an incident that could have been avoided, had the SLN not carried out rape and murder with impunity. Furthermore, most of the articles went on to blame the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the attack, accusing them of trying to re-start the civil war.
Monday, December 19, 2005 – Attacking the academia
SLA troopers opened fire at a peaceful demonstration march –condemning the rape and murder of Miss. Tharsini- by Jaffna University students and staff, wounding at least seven demonstrators including Prof. N. Perinpanathan, a Senior Lecturer, and a student leader of the medical faculty T. Kandeepan. Professor C. Mohanadas, the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University, Prof. R. Sivchandran, Dean of Arts, and S. Kajendran, Jaffna MP were severely beaten by the soldiers.
The University of Jaffna closed its gates. The 6 000 students of the university requested the LTTE to provide them with self defense training.
Saturday, December 24, 2005 – Burnt alive and shot to death
Four persons of two neighboring families, a 43 years-old couple, Mr Emmanuel Cruz and Mrs. Anthonicam Cruz, and Theresa Cruz, a mother and her four-year-old boy Dilakshan Cruz were burnt to death by SLN personal at the Victoria Hundred Houses resettlement in Pesalai. On the same day five civilians including a female were shot to death in the Jaffna peninsula. The SLA made an initial claim that all five were armed at the time of being shot. However, it later emerged that all five were civilians who ran to seek shelter after a firefight broke out between the SLA and armed men in the area.
‘Rebels in Sri Lanka Kill 10 Soldiers’ cried the Washington Post on December 27. Not even a passing reference was made to the killing of nine innocent civilians just three days prior. Not even a word of credit for the RPF that carried out the attack.
Sunday, December 25, 2005 – Murder at Midnight Mass
Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, a senior Tamil politician and the Batticaloa district Member of Parliament (MP) of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was shot and killed by two SLMI personals at St. Mary's co-cathedral church in Batticaloa town while attending Christmas prayers early morning at 1.20 a.m Sunday. The MP's wife, Mrs. Sugunam Pararajasingham, seriously wounded in the gunfire, was rushed to Batticaloa Hospital in critical condition. Seven more persons were injured in the gunfire.
The Sinhala media was quick to point out the resemblance between this killing and that of the late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in August. The only difference is that the Foreign Minister’s murder was met with strong criticism from around the world. Everyone from world leaders to local media sent out sympathies for several days after. The murder of Mr. Pararajasingham was virtually ignored.
The culprits of neither of the murders have not been caught yet. When it came to Kadirgamar, it was said that ‘unidentified gunmen’ could simply not have carried it out. The blame was pinned on the LTTE without a shred of evidence. The European Union went on to impose a travel ban on the LTTE. However, the very same people insist that the murder of Mr. Pararajasingham was carried out by ‘unidentified gunmen’.
2006 – Will to war
Apart from the above mentioned high profile events, not a day has passed without incidents of violence across the Tamil Homeland. The cycle of innocent civilians being shot, and the RPF exploding grenades in retaliation, seems unstoppable. Calls from the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, Norway and Human Rights Groups for an end to the violence have fallen on deaf years.
The one sided, unbalanced reporting of events in the international media is not helping the situation much. Reporting mine attacks without identifying their root courses as well as pinning the blame on the LTTE without a shred of evidence, are further aggravating the already volatile Cease Fire.
In wishing all of our readers a happy new year, we look forward to 2006 as a year in which we can halt the tit-for-tat violence by stopping both the tit as well as the tat.