Sri Lanka's Untold Story
The Tamil cause still lives – growing global awareness will ensure Sri Lanka is held accountable for the slaughter of civilians
Sri Lankan military killed thousands of Tamil civilians over the past few months (not to mention the years before) using the full might of its fire power by way of artillery and air strikes. It has, with intent, starved its own people by refusing to send food and medicine in sufficient quantities and in adequate frequencies.
Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain.
What is deeply disappointing is the fact that powerful liberal states which have long espoused human rights, the Geneva conventions and, most recently, the responsibility to protect, have all allowed thousands of innocent lives to be lost unnecessarily and with full knowledge.
The slaughter went on every day, with many women and children being killed not just by the shelling but due to starvation and lack of medical care. Yet the international response, especially those of the UN and western liberal states, has been pathetic. Mere statements after statements were released by heads of states like Gordon Brown and Barack Obama and institutions such as the UN, EU and various non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty, HRW and Crisis Group. No one showed real leadership in stopping this genocide which took place in broad daylight.
Even now thousands of displaced young Tamils are being abducted and disappeared, the wounded and injured are not given medical care and families are separated and abused in overcrowded barbed-wire-fenced camps. Thousands are still lining up at check points which have no independent observers present. International media has no way of reporting without government interference.
Sri Lanka is conducting this war beyond its means. Its economy is in a mess due to mismanagement, as stated by the World Bank. Sri Lanka's Central Bank is seeking an emergency loan from the IMF due to its fast depleting reserves. Yet, year on year defence budget has been consistently rising by huge percentages. Regional powers and others have assisted financially and otherwise to continue with this government's war with its own people. Unemployed youth from Sri Lanka's rural south who could be put to more constructive development use were being used for destruction and killing.
Pretending to promote human rights and high moral values, western governments are turning a blind eye to the state terrorism in Sri Lanka, but also incentivising such horrendous violations by granting large sums in loans and grants. Hypocrisy of the international community is obvious as they argue any sanctions against such financial assistance will hurt the wider economy of Sri Lanka. The same wasn't true it seems for the poor Zimbabweans or the Palestinians of Gaza City.
In 1977, after three decades of discrimination and state-backed mob violence, the entire Tamil political leadership united behind a demand for an independent state comprising the Tamil homeland as the only way to escape oppression and discrimination in Sri Lanka. This fight for freedom followed another three decades through armed struggle. Today, Sri Lanka believes that it has crushed it, forgetting the 1.5 million Tamil diaspora from Sri Lankan decent living around the world, and the strength of over 60 million Tamils living just next door in Tamil Nadu of India.
Since independence, over 61 years, successive governments of Sri Lanka have demonstrated to the Tamil people that they have no genuine intentions of resolving this fundamental problem through a just and reasonable political power-sharing agreement. Institutions and the world powers, including regional players, have pretended to believe successive governments and their supposed sincerity.
However the liberation struggle has taken a turn beyond anyone's wildest imaginations in the recent months. People locally and internationally have decided to take the struggle forward, with or without the support of international governments and institutions. An initially non-violent struggle turned to an armed struggle, and has now taken a further shift - with the active involvement of people around the world. The lack of political will and the military aggression by the government of Sri Lanka has converted the unconvertible - particularly the second generation Tamils overseas - towards the separatist movement. World media has woken up to report the untold story of more than half a century. These developments cannot be quashed by the military might of Sri Lanka or the very people and governments around the world who have been assisting such brutal suppression.
A day will come that will see a new and free nation being born in the Indian Ocean, just as Bangladesh was created and others around the world such as Kosovo, East Timor and Eretria.
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited