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The West eyes wide closed:

Revisiting Tamil Tiger massacres in Sri Lanka

The term ‘ethnic cleansing’, incorporated into the English dictionary in the 1990s, has been extensively used by the international media in relation to the Yugoslav wars and has become a popular phrase from 1992.


Flashback: LTTE terrorists set off a huge truck bomb outside Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist shrine in Kandy, the Temple of the Tooth, killing 13 people and wounding 23. Two toddlers were among the dead. The temple, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha, suffered serious damage.

There is no formal legal definition of ‘ethnic cleansing’. A broad generalisation, however, refers to ‘ethnic cleansing’ as forcible deportation of a population and an act of crime against humanity, under the statutes of both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Criminal Tribunal.

‘Ethnic cleansing’ is a method which involves terror, associated with a distasteful misfortune of refugees. It brings about gloom with the ruins of ravaged homes. Its purpose is to ensure destruction through threat, humiliation, mass murder, torture, rape and sexual assault, confinement of the civilian population, use of civilians as human shields and destruction of cultural property. The UN General Assembly condemned ‘ethnic cleansing’ and racial hatred in a 1992 resolution and held that the practices associated with ethnic cleansing “constitute crimes against humanity and can be assimilated to specific war crimes”.

• A 1971 Census in Sri Lanka indicated a population of 20,514 Sinhalese living in the Jaffna peninsula. By mid-October 1987, they were completely ethnically cleansed by the LTTE.

• Since 1984, over 400,000 Tamils had moved into ethnically diverse Colombo, to live in security and harmony among the majority Sinhalese and other communities.

• As of 2009, the percentage of the ethnic minority population outside the Northern and Eastern regions is 54 percent.

The expulsion of Muslims from Jaffna was an act of ethnic cleansing by the LTTE in October 1990. To achieve their goal of creating an ethnically “pure” Tamil state in the North and East, the LTTE forcibly expelled the entire Muslim community from the northern Jaffna peninsula, giving only 48 hours of warning. The Muslims were not even permitted to take any of their belongings; subsequently, their belongings were looted by the LTTE.

LTTE sentiments with regard to Muslims were amply manifested in their actions. From the first week of October 1987, the LTTE proceeded with no provocation to massacre Sinhalese and Muslims from Trincomalee down to Batticaloa, two of the three districts in the Eastern Province.

Expelled Muslims

The US State Department Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka for 1995, published in April 1996, said, “In the northern part of the island, LTTE insurgents expelled some 46,000 Muslim inhabitants from their homes in 1990...virtually the entire Muslim population...expropriated Muslim homes, lands and businesses and threatened Muslim families with death if they attempt to return...In October (1995) over 120 Sinhalese civilians were massacred by LTTE forces in an attempt to inflame communal violence...many of the victims were hacked to death with swords and axes”.

The atrocities committed on Muslims alone were as follows:

• 62 Muslims hacked to death at Nintavur, Ampara on June 21, 1990

• 140 Muslims murdered and 66 injured while at prayer in the Meera Jumma and Hussainiya Mosques at Kattankudy, Batticaloa on August 5, 1990

• 40 Muslims murdered at Akkaraipattu, Ampara the following day

• 127 Muslims murdered at the Saddam Hussein village, Poovaikadu and at Kalavaichanai near Eravur in Batticaloa about four days later

• This trend continued in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and spread to adjacent villages such as Palliyagodella and Alinchinnapotai in the North Central Province where families were hacked to death while going about their day-to-day affairs, or at night when asleep.

• In 1992, the LTTE gave every Muslim in all parts of the Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Vavuniya, and Mullaitivu districts the option of leaving the Northern Province within 24 hours or being murdered. These Muslims who had co-existed in the North with Tamils for generations left their homes and fled to refugee camps

• On August 3, 1990, gun-carrying Tamil Tigers swooped on Muslims at prayers inside the holy Kattankudy mosque and butchered 103 including over 25 small children. According to Muslim Peace Secretariat data, in 1981 the total number of Muslims in the North was 50,831. As at end of 2007, the population of Muslims in the North is 20,583.

The eviction of Muslims from the Northern Province commenced early as 1985. Muslims from Mullaitivu were the first victims. In 1990, a pure form of ethnic cleansing of Muslims took place in an unprecedented manner. Muslims were ordered to leave within a short time or face dire consequences. According to a survey conducted by Dr. S.H. Hasbullah, Muslim families were evicted from about 70 villages in the province. Scholars have pointed out that the eviction was a calculated attempt at uprooting an ethno-regional identity of a community from a land of historical habitation.

Mass massacres

In 1990, except in certain parts of Mannar and Vavuniya districts of the Northern Province, an attempt was made to clear the rest of the North of Muslims. The effort was successful in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Mannar districts. However, in Vavuniya and Mannar, a substantial number of Muslims continued to remain in spite of threats to life and property. In Vavuniya, the entire Muslim population remained intact (statistically) and in Mannar the Muslim population dropped drastically to less than 6,000 after the expulsion (from 26.81 to 5.14 percent).

The LTTE used mass massacres to evict the Muslims from the North and the East. At the time of expulsion, a large concentration of Muslims lived in the Jaffna district. In 1981, there were 13,757 Muslims in Jaffna. The number was down to 299 in 2007. There was a heavy concentration of Muslims in the Jaffna town.

Then, the Tigers turned their wrath on the Sinhalese with mass massacres. On May 14, 1985, the LTTE killed 146 Sinhalese men, women and children, when they hijacked a bus and drove it to the Sri Maha Bodhi, and began firing indiscriminately into a crowd that included Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis.

On June 2, 1987, a bus carrying Buddhist monks in Arantalawa in the North was attacked and 35 Bhikkhus were killed. The LTTE massacred 109 Muslim men, women and children in Palliyagodella on October 15, 1991. Subsequently, they massacred 42 Sinhalese men, women and children on May 25, 1995 in a fishing village, Kallarawa in Trincomalee.

On September 18, 1999, over 50 men, women and children were hacked to death in Gonagala, a small village in the Ampara district in the Eastern Province.

The end result was the depopulation of the villages as the last remaining survivors fled. The wholesale massacres by the LTTE on the two ethnic groups, Sinhalese and Muslims, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces were to target a mono-ethnic region in these provinces.

This is what the International Crisis Group said in a report published on May 29, 2007: “Throughout much of the 25-year Sri Lankan conflict, attention has focused on the confrontation between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils. The views of the country’s Muslims, who are eight percent of the population and see themselves as a separate ethnic group, have largely been ignored. Understanding their role in the conflict and addressing their political aspirations are vital if there is to be a lasting peace settlement. Muslims need to be part of any renewed peace process, but with both the government and LTTE intent on continuing the conflict, more immediate steps should be taken to ensure their security and political involvement.

“At least one third of Muslims lives in the conflict-affected North and East and has a significant interest in the outcome of the war against terrorism. They have often suffered serious hardship, particularly at the hands of the LTTE. Since 1990, Muslims have been the victims of ethnic cleansing, massacres and forced displacement by the insurgents.”

It recommends that the Government “Establish a presidential commission to investigate the expulsions of the Muslim population from the Northern Province in 1990 and address both immediate needs and long-term legal, political and physical obstacles to an eventual return.”

LTTE mass-scale massacres/genocide (1985 - 2009)

Before the long list of genocidal acts of the Tamil Tigers, the readers need to be reminded again what ‘genocide’, in internationally accepted terms, constitute. The analysis of the crime of genocide shows that there are three major elements thereof:

- Victims of the above-mentioned violent acts must belong to particular national, ethnic, racial or religious groups;

- There must be specific intent (mens rea) to destroy such group in whole or in part;

- Any of the genocidal acts must be actually committed (actus reus).

Consequently, genocide can be committed only against certain national, ethnic, racial or religious groups. Similar actions directed against, ex. political or social group cannot be qualified as genocide.

The concept of genocide requires the existence of a specific intent regarding general consequences of an illegal deed. As a feature of genocide, intent includes the following:

- Intent must not to be directed against one or more persons belonging to certain group, but rather to the group as such. In other words, the qualifying criteria is not the victims' personalities, but their being a member of that group;

- Intent must be aimed at a group, as such. Genocide means denial to accept the right to exist of an entire human group.

To the contrary, killing of a human being (homicide) is characterised as a denial of the right to exist of an individual being. Consequently, actus reus (prohibited act) may be committed against even one person, but mens rea (intent) must be directed against the existence of the entire human group;

- Intent must contain the desire to destroy a group in whole or in part;

- Such a group must be national, ethnic, racial or religious. It is not required that a group be indeed totally or partially destroyed, so that the responsibility for genocide be inferred. For that, it is necessary that the acts, constituting the material element of the crime concerned, be committed with such an intent.


Following are some of the mass-scale massacres targeting an ethnic group undertaken by the LTTE which fall in to the category of genocide. All these massacres were executed by the LTTE in the Eastern Province to achieve its goal of a mono-ethnic combined North-East Provinces that they claim as the 'Tamil Homeland'. The Tamil Tigers were successful in ejecting the Sinhalese and Muslims from the Northern Province, using the weapon of mass massacre.

Nov. 30, 1984 - Kent Farm, Vavuniya - Armed terrorists shot dead 29 Sinhalese settlers and injured several others

Nov. 30, 1984 - Dollar Farm, Vavuniya - Armed terrorists shot dead 33 Sinhalese settlers and injured several others

May 14, 1985 - Anuradhapura - Armed terrorists invaded town and shot dead 146 Sinhalese and injured 85 others. This included pilgrims who were at the Sacred Sri Maha Bodhi premises.

Nov. 7, 1985 - Namalwatta, Morawewa, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 10 Sinhalese villagers

May 25, 1986 - Mahadivulwewa, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 20 Sinhalese and set fire to 20 houses

June 4, 1986 - Andankulam, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 17 Sinhalese, including Ven. Bakamune Subaddalankara Thera

April 20, 1987 - Jayanthipura, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 15 Sinhalese villagers

May 29, 1987 - Arantalawa, Ampara - Armed terrorists shot dead 30 Bhikkhus and four Sinhalese civilians and injured 15 Bhikkhus

June 2, 1987 - Arantalawa, Ampara - Bloody massacre and brutal mutilation of 33 young Bhikkhus and their mentor, Chief Priest Ven. Hegoda Indrasara Thera

Oct. 6, 1987 - Batticaloa - Armed terrorists shot dead 18 Sinhalese

Oct. 6, 1987 - Sagarapura, Kuchchuveli, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 27 Sinhalese villagers

Oct. 6, 1987 - Thalavai, Eravur - Armed terrorists shot dead 10 Sinhalese villagers

Dec. 31, 1987 - Mahadivulwewa, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 10 villagers and burnt 15 houses

March 2, 1988 - Morawewa, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 14 Sinhalese villagers

March 14, 1988 -Gamletiyawa, Kantale, Trincomalee - Armed terrorists shot dead 13 Sinhalese villagers

March 15, 1988 - Kivulkade, Trincomalee - Two groups of terrorists entered the village and killed seven Sinhalese villagers

March 22, 1988 - Paudukulam, Vavuniya - Ten to 15 armed terrorists attacked the Sinhalese village and killed six villagers, three injured

March 22, 1988 - Medawachchikulam, Vavuniya - Armed terrorists shot dead nine Sinhalese villagers

August 3, 1990 - Kattankudy - Gun-carrying terrorists swooped on Muslim prayers inside the holy mosque and butchered 103 including over 25 small children

Aug. 7, 1990 - Bandaraduwa Uhana, Ampara - About 40 armed terrorists went to a Sinhalese village and killed 30 and injured four

Aug. 19, 1991 - Palliyagodella, Polonnaruwa - Terrorists attacked Muslim village, killing 13 and injuring six

April 29, 1992 - Alinchipotana, Polonnaruwa - Terrorists attacked village, killing 56 Muslims and injuring 15

Oct. 15, 1992 - Palliyagodella, Ahamedpura, Agbopura, Pamburana and Polonnaruwa - About 200-300 armed terrorists attacked Muslim villages and shot and hacked to death 172 civilians (171 of them Muslims), 12 policemen and eight soldiers,;83 others injured.

Sep. 18, 1999 - Kalpengala and Bedirekka, Ampara - Terrorists massacred 61 Sinhalese villagers including 17 women and seven children in three villages. The victims were dragged from sleep and hacked and chopped to death using machetes and swords, some of them still on bed.

May 29, 2006 - Omadiyamadu, Welikanda - Twelve workers killed while two escape death in alleged Tiger attack. They were engaged in an irrigation canal construction project for the Mahaweli Authority undertaken by a contractor.

June 15, 2006 - Kebithigollewa - Sixty four including 15 schoolchildren, several pregnant women, a Bhikkhu and many civilians massacred

Aug. 3, 2006 - Muttur - Three schools in the East were bombarded with heavy artillery fire. The intention of the LTTE very clearly was to cause maximum damage to a hapless innocent Muslim community who were gathered in large numbers at these refugee centres

April 5 and 12, 2007 - Aralaganvila and Paleuruwa, Awaranthulawa, Vavuniya - LTTE terrorists killed six women and one man and injured a few others. According to defence sources, an armed group of terrorists stormed the village around 4:30 pm and executed two families at two houses. Earlier, LTTE terrorists killed four civilians at Aralaganvila

Dec. 5, 2007 - Abhimanpura, Kebithigollewa - Another massive bomb targeting a civilian bus, 16 dead, 23 injured

Jan. 16, 2008 - Okkampitiya, Moneragala - Massacre of schoolchildren; 28 killed and 64 wounded

Feb. 21, 2009 -Kirimetiya, Ratmalgaha Ella in Inginiyagala, Ampara - LTTE cadre stormed the predominantly Sinhalese village, indiscriminately fired at a farming community, killing 21 and injuring 20 others including children.


Genocide tag

To whom does the genocide tag fit, Pirapaharan or Rajapaksa?

Who had "a specific intent (mens rea) to destroy such (ethnic) group in whole or in part; Pirapaharan or Gotabaya Rajapaksa?

In its exercise countering LTTE terrorism, which is a "Sri Lankan phenomenon" according to former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jeffrey Lunstead, the Government of Sri Lanka has not been battling either the 54 percent ethnic minority Tamils living among the majority ethnic Sinhalese outside the North and the East or the rest of the Tamils living in the North and the East, but the vicious fighting cadre of the LTTE who happened to be ethnic minority Tamils.

In 1988/89, the Government did not battle the Sinhalese during the Marxist-JVP insurrection/terrorism, but was battling fighting cadre of the JVP who happened to be Sinhalese.

The LTTE became a 'self-appointed sole representative of the Tamil people' after successfully assassinating the entire democratic Tamil leadership in the late eighties and nineties and forced the international community to recognise them as a 'negotiating partner' to address Tamil grievances.

Then it became a formidable political and military force when it controlled a significant percentage of both the Northern and Eastern Provinces, which earned the recognition of the West, which continuously forced the Government of Sri Lanka to negotiate with them.

It graduated to the 'negotiating table' by massacring the Sinhalese and Muslims in the North and the East, with targeted ethnic cleansing which fits into the international definition of genocide.

The brutal elimination of the entire democratic Tamil leadership helped it to convince the Western democracies, international rights groups, INGOs and the UN that it is the 'sole representative of the Tamil people'.

The international community was unable to ignore the genocide practised by the LTTE and its supreme commander Pirapaharan, and this is an attempt to refresh their memories about the atrocities committed by them from their inception to early 2009.

The Asian Tribune presents these almost buried historical facts for the international community to assess at a time the UN Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva.

Make no mistake: Annihilation of the Tamil Tigers is not the annihilation of a race in Sri Lanka. It is the Tamil Tiger outfit who started the annihilation of two ethnic communities in the Northern and Eastern regions in Sri Lanka and held the Tamil community captive in once dominated lands.

The term given to that exercise is "Genocide".

Courtesy: Asian Tribune

 

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