So Sri Lanka’s been in this big civil war for longer than I’ve been alive. It’s such a lovely place, but it’s been tormented for so long.
My mum’s gone to Sri Lanka for a my cousin’s wedding. The last time she was there, there was an air raid on the air force base next to the airport. My mother was actually on board a plane that was taxiing on the runway at the time. The time before that, there was that tsunami thing. Right now, the fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels has escalated to some of the worst combat I can remember.
Wow, she gets all the fun stuff, huh?
I was surprised hear that SL was the top breaking news story on news.com.au last night (although it was to do with a Australian UN worker who’s trapped in the war-zone, so I guess it’s not that surprising), because for so long the conflict there has been overshadowed by various other goings-on around the world. There was an article about that trend on New Matilda late last year.
The UN and Red Cross have claimed that over 250,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in the north and east of the island, but Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has told the BBC that those international organisations have got that wrong:
“I’m not saying they are lying but they are exaggerating,” he said.
He also ruled out any ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, saying it would give the Tigers a chance to reorganise.
“The purpose of this offensive is to eradicate them,” he said.
Hrm. That seems kind mean, doesn’t it?
Well if it does, then this should make you worry: Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (who is the brother of Mahinda, Sri Lanka’s president; assassinated newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge claimed the president and the government are responsible for his death) is a US citizen who might be getting indicted for genocide and war crimes in the next couple of weeks.
Yeah. Now that’s Dodgy (with a capital D!).
In news via Twitter, constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein has been preparing a 1,000-page model indictment against G Rajapaksa and army commander Sarath Fonseka for allegedly violating Section 1091 of the United States Criminal Code:
The model indictment is scheduled for publication within two weeks and will be presented to the US Congress, the Department of Justice and the State Department.
The lawyer represents Tamils Against Genocide, a non-profit organization based in the United States, whose mission is to obtain US or international indictments against the two US citizens or green card holders currently serving in the government of Sri Lanka for alleged complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, including torture and extrajudicial killings, against Sri Lanka’s civilian Tamil population.
Now, Fein is clearly not just some schmuck. He graduated from Harvard Law School with honours, clerked for a federal judge, had a bunch of high profile government-law positions and has written for Slate about impeaching Cheney. I think I like this guy.
The allegations about extrajudicial killings are nothing out of the blue for me. I’ve heard a bunch of stories about people getting taken away in “white vans” and never returning (and this has happened to both Singhalese and Tamil people) and then there’s the whole war-on-journalism thing. And Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje’s 2001 book Anil’s Ghost is the story of an ex-pat Sri Lankan forensic anthropologist who had been sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organised campaigns of murder on the island. Things over there are seriously messed up.
But what is out of the blue, at least for me, is this allegation from an article about Fein’s indictment (from a site called TamilSydney via TamilNet, so I know it needs to be taken with a grain of salt):
Mr. Fein said that Sri Lanka was a unique nation whose history reveals an ongoing cultural genocide, adding, “the myths of the Mahavamsa say that Sri Lanka belongs to no one but the Sinhalese, and the text celebrates kings for slaughtering Tamils. Secondly, the teachings of Dharmapala, celebrate the purity of the Aryan race and establish the idea of racial supremacy. Because Dharmapala is as sacred to the Sinhalese as Jesus to the Christians, the Sinhalese believe and act with the notion of racial supremacy. This legacy is being continued by Sinhalese Buddhist monks and this legacy is used by Buddhists in classrooms in the South, as an instruction in genocide.”
Um, is this true, you guys? Because if it is, I am jumping on a plane right now to go an smack some people in the head. What atrocious horrendousness, people? Atrocious. Horrendousness.
I am a Singalese Buddhist but my brother’s BFF is Tamil (how Romeo & Juliet) and, dude, I am not racist or biased just because of the family I was born into. I want all people to be happy and get along and stuff. The whole thing has upset me for some time. because it never seems like ending and the people in charge (of both sides) have been arrogant douche-bags (or, if they’ve been alright, have been shot or blown up).
So here’s my stance on this thing: I hate the Tamil Tigers, right — they’re terrorists, they pioneered suicide bombers, they make women and children fight. But gods-damn, I hate bigotry of any description and war and violence at that, so if those government bastards did get involved in war crimes, I want them to rot. Slowly and painfully.
I don’t know if there’s a solution that doesn’t involve getting all of those bastards in jail first, and then getting decent people to take over and settle this. But something more has to be done… just don’t know if, during all these economic troubles and Middle East mess and climate change crises etc etc, if the world has the capacity to deal with this, too.
By the way, a group of Tamil students have started a hunger strike in Sydney’s St Martins Place in an attempt to get the Australian government to take action and they’ve posted YouTube vids of civilian casualties on their blog: http://fastuntoaction.wordpress.com/ (warning: there’s heartwrenching music and horrific images).
Update: The ABC has a news story on the footage, and in good journalistic form, it’s pointed out that the videos haven’t been verified and no one is sure when and where this was taped.