October 
2008

Vol 8-No. 4


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SOUTH ASIA: SRI LANKA                                                                                        News Briefs


 


                       
       (Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
         map are not members of SAARC)

Canadian government biased towards 
Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

BY SATHEESAN KUMAARAN (IDN) * 

Canada is home to 400,000 ethnic Tamils subsequent to their fleeing for safety when the Sri Lankan state failed to address their grievances and protect them. Canada has chosen to remain a spectator while the relatives and friends of the 400,000 Canadian Tamils in Sri Lanka seek international intervention with the view to justice for the atrocities inflicted upon the people in the North and East of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan Government (GoSL). 

Since his election of in 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has continued to emit venomous war cries against Tamils in Sri Lanka and orders his armed forces to invade Tamil villages, towns and cities and causing heavy casualties both in humans and property. The GoSL reports to the Canadian government that the Tamils are terrorists in order to justify its war against the Tamil people. Far from being concerned about the GoSL’s actions against these so-called terrorists, the Canadian government turns a blind eye towards the ethnic conflict. Canadian foreign ministry officials serve without much interaction with Canadian or Sri Lankan Tamils. 

Canada’s government needs to find out the real story about what’s going on in Sri Lanka. Canada needs to send a high-level delegation to Sri Lanka’s north and east to observe the situation on the ground and hear from the Tamils living there before making foreign policy decisions about how to respond to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.

Tamils in the Vanni (de facto state under LTTE control) for example are in grave danger as Sri Lankan armed forces advance on them with the belief that they could capture Vanni from the LTTE as they have done with other areas in the East and elsewhere. Military overtures will not solve the problem. Rather, both parties need to enter into genuine peace talks to reach a permanent solution to the conflict allowing the Tamils to live in freedom with peace and justice.

Canadian Tamils’ concern

Tamils living in Canada have continually raised their concerns to the government as their Sri Lankan brethren suffer great difficulties during the civil war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE in the Sri Lanka’s North and East.

Canada’s former Liberal government, despite its disinterested approach towards Sri Lanka’s internal matters, never agitated the LTTE or the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). The Liberals embraced the Tamils in Canada and sought local Tamil support. This resulted in more than twelve Liberal MPs being elected with the support of Tamils from the Toronto region alone. They did little to assist the Tamils in Sri Lanka, but they did not put pressure on the Tamil community in Canada like the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done after coming to power in 2006. He, along with many other Conservatives, has viewed the LTTE as their enemy without even taking the trouble to study the real situation in Sri Lanka and the history of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.

Their ignorance towards the violent reprisals of the government against constitutional and peaceful protests by elected Tamil leaders to advocate on the Gandhian mode for Tamil rights to be granted in a quasi-federal model and, consequently, Tamil youth responding  by taking up arms against the State to fight for Tamil liberation is an unjust lapse of immense proportion. 

In 2002, although the LTTE partially agreed to enter into peace talks on the condition that the GoSL grant Tamils reasonable autonomy, the GoSL led by then President Chandrika Bandaranaike and then by the current President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, rather than accommodating the LTTE declared war against the Tamils with the aim of occupying Tamil areas, causing heavy damages to the lives and property of Tamils in the East, and controlling the LTTE’s stronghold, Vanni, in the North.

All these incidents have raised concerns and frustration among the Diaspora Tamils, most of whom live in Canada. Most Tamils are Canadian citizens and contribute to the Canadian mainstream as peace-loving, polite, hardworking and tax-paying people. Since it came to power, the Conservative government has handled the Sri Lankan Tamil issue quite differently from what the real situation in Sri Lanka warrants. This is despite Canadian Tamils urging their government to step forward to help their brethren living in Sri Lanka by exerting pressure upon the GoSL not to force the LTTE to enter into a conventional war with the Sri Lankan armed forces which would result in heavy casualties among the civilians. The LTTE, on the other hand, maintains their silence, saying that they would want to enter into genuine peace talks with the GoSL in order to find a permanent solution to the ethnic conflict.

The Canadian government’s inaction and apathy could further destabilize the situation in Sri Lanka and result in further casualties and more disaster for the Tamils. The Canadian government’s silence could further encourage the GoSL to proceed with an open war against the Tamil people for their own sinister political motives and to satisfy Sinhalese chauvinism.

The Ground situation in the North

It has to be stated the Canadian High Commission in Colombo has not sent any high-ranking, responsible personnel to Sri Lanka’s North to find out the situation on the ground firsthand thus making it difficult for the Canadian foreign ministry to decide what action it should take towards Sri Lanka.

The recent military operations to capture the Vanni region have caused nearly half a million people to seek temporary shelter from the international aid agencies based in Kilinochchi in the North. In a pre-meditated manner, the Sri Lankan government is trying to eliminate all the avenues of being charged with war crimes, human rights abuses and state terrorism against Tamils exposed by the neutral international human rights organizations and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) to the international community. These organizations a play critical role in the Vanni region and still provide much needed assistance to the people living in temporary shelters in a very difficult situation.

An outrageous situation has arisen in the Vanni region where the defence secretary of Sri Lanka, and brother of Sri Lanka’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has ordered all the human rights organizations operating in Vanni to dismantle themselves and leave the region to set up shop in a government controlled area. He also barred any rights organizations from going into the rebel control area.

Close to 250,000 displaced Tamil civilians have already moved deeper into the heart of the Kilinochchi area, living in subhuman conditions without food, medicine, clean drinking water and even basic sanitation. Sri Lanka continues to use maximum fire power and indiscriminate attacks on these unarmed people. The U.N. recently called the situation in Vanni grim, and yet pulled all their staff out of the region.

The Canadian government has to change its warped foreign policy towards Sri Lanka and look towards the well-being and democratic rights of close to 500,000 people. If the international community, including Canada, does not step in to help the Tamils on the island, we may see another Rwanda.

When Tamils are dying back home, Canadian Tamils cannot be simply spectators and need to come out in protest against the Canadian government for encouraging the Sri Lankan government in the war against Tamils.

Canada’s local politics

Either Canadian political parties have little knowledge of Sri Lanka or it seems that they do not want to spend time and energy to focus on the conflict in Sri Lanka. Canadian political parties regard Sri Lanka as just a tiny nation in the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean. By contrast, the U.S. has much interest in Sri Lanka because it is located strategically in the Indian Ocean in the middle of sea-lane allowing world ships to ply between West Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australasia, Europe and the Americas. This sea-lane is critical where the world economy is based on the need of oil which is the main commodity transported through this sea-lane.

However, despite its close relations with the U.S., Canada does not worry about Sri Lanka. The Canadian government sits back without worry for the Canadian oil need, as the American oil companies tie up deals with Canadian firms to bring safe transportation from West Asia and elsewhere. This attitude poses a great danger to Canada because the Canadian government has a great opportunity to stand on its own leg for its own economy rather than relying on its giant neighbour to the south.

Canada is basically a bi-party political power allowing the Liberals and the Conservatives to stay in power while other minor political parties like the NDP and Green Party exist solely as pressure groups in parliament with no clear voice. The Liberals never wanted to alienate immigrants living in Canada so they could win the immigrant community vote. To achieve this they chose to not openly support any side in Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. The Liberals had better relations with the Tamils in Canada and with Sri Lankan government officials in Ottawa and in Colombo.

When the Conservatives were in the Opposition in parliament during thirteen years of Liberals Party governance, they branded the Liberals as the pro-LTTE party who encouraged terrorism in Sri Lanka. The Conservative Opposition questioned the ruling Liberals about allowing a Liberal cabinet minister to take part in a Tamil fundraising event. The Conservatives asserted that the money raised at this event would be spent on weapons to arm the LTTE in its quest to create a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka. The then Prime Minister Jean Chretien stood during Question Period in the House of Commons to defend his colleagues, saying that money raised would go to support the relatives and friends of Canadian Tamils living in Sri Lanka who were facing food and medicine shortages and that the funds would be used to save lives there.

When the Conservatives came to power in February 2006 they immediately branded the LTTE a terrorist organization and other local organizations as the LTTE’s front organizations. It also urged the local Tamils not to donate any money to the Tamil organizations meant to collect for the Tamils in Sri Lanka saying that the money collected in Canada was used to buy weapons for the LTTE. The Conservatives do not seem to understand the real situation in Sri Lanka. The Tamils living in the North and East are in grave danger and they need the support not the LTTE. Banning the so-called LTTE-front organizations and listing the LTTE as a terrorist organization has alarmed many Tamils around the world.

As we approach the Federal election slated for October 14, 2008, the time has come for the Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats to decide what type of foreign policy they will institute to address the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Do the Canadian parties support the so-called war on terror instigated by the GoSL or do they support the war for justice by the Tamils? This election call comes at a time when Tamils living in Sri Lanka are facing a do or die situation as GoSL armed forces undertake military operations with the hope of victory in Vanni. It’s time for the Canadian political parties to publicly announce what they would do for Sri Lanka should they be elected the ruling party on October 14.

___________

* Satheesan Kumaaran holds B.Sc. (Biology), Honours BA (Political Science) and MA in Integrated Studies  with the specialization in International Law and International Relations. This was first published in The Tamil Mirror. E-Mail: satheesan_kumaaran@yahoo.com

 

 

News Briefs

 

243 LTTE militants and 20 soldiers among 266 persons killed during the week: 243 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 20 soldiers and three civilians were among 266 persons killed in separate incidents between September 22 and September 28. At least 16 LTTE militants were killed and five others injured during clashes with the security forces (SFs) in the Akkarayankulam, Wannivilankulam and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District on September 21. Four soldiers were also killed during the confrontations. Separately, troops killed 11 LTTE militants, including the provincial leader of the outfit, identified as Muttu, in the east of Navvi in Vavuniya District. On September 22, at least 17 LTTE militants were killed and 13 others injured as clashes erupted between the militants and the troops in the Akkarayankulam, Wannivilankulam, Pannaikandamdu and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District. 13 LTTE militants were killed as the troops neutralized eight bunkers of the outfit at Vannappulikulam, an area between Nachchakuda and Akkarayankulam, in the Kilinochchi District following a four-hour long battle on September 25. Two soldiers were also killed while 14 others sustained injuries during the encounters. At least 18 militants were killed as the troops repulsed a LTTE attack on the SFs Forward Defence Line (FDL) in the Maniarkulam area of Kilinochchi District on September 26. On the same day, 17 militants were killed in clashes between the two sides in the Vannavikulam area of Kilinochchi District. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 22-29, 2008.

257 LTTE militants and 24 soldiers among 288 persons killed during the week: 257 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 24 soldiers and seven civilians were among 288 persons killed in separate incidents between September 15 and September 21, 2008. At least 18 LTTE militants were killed as the troops of the 57 Division operating on the Vavuniya front on September 15 advanced six kilometres east of Akkarayankulam Tank in the Kilinochchi District towards the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 road from the north of Kokkali. Three soldiers were killed and nine soldiers injured during these confrontations. On September 16, the security forces (SFs) during separate encounters in the Palamoddai, North of Palamoddai and Vedamakilam areas of Vavuniya District killed 11 LTTE militants. On September 17, at least 25 LTTE militants and four soldiers were killed while about 25 militants and 14 soldiers were injured as troops captured a 1.5-kilometre stretch of the huge earth bund (embankment) at Karampaikkulam, eight kilometres northeast of Nachchakuda, in the Kilinochchi District. Troops operating east of Akkarayankulam foiled three counter attacks by the LTTE to recapture the area, which has been under SF control since September 15, killing at least 15 LTTE cadres. Separately, during six separate clashes in the Palamoddai area of Vavuniya District, the SFs killed 12 militants. At least 25 Sea Tigers, cadres of the sea wing of the LTTE, were killed and 10 Sea Tiger boats, including three big ones, were destroyed in a four-hour sea battle between the Lankan Navy and the Sea Tigers in the seas off Valaipadu at Nachchakuda in the Kilinochchi District on September 18. Separately, the SFs captured another 1.5 kilometres stretch of land in the Karampaikkulam area of Kilinochchi District killing 15 LTTE militants and injuring 18 others. Three soldiers were killed while 12 others received injuries during the clash. On the same day, at least 13 LTTE militants were killed and six others injured during clashes with the troops in and around Andankulam in the Vavuniya District. Three soldiers were killed and another one injured. On September 19, troops killed 12 LTTE militants and injured five others in the area north of Palamoddai in the Vavuniya District. Further, on September 20, at least 23 LTTE cadres were killed and a large number of others injured during encounters in the Mankulam, Navaddikulam, north of Palamoddai, Akkarayankulam, Panniwedikulam, Vannavikulam, Punani Kodamadu and Andankulam areas of Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 15-21, 2008.

LTTE used CS gas to attack soldiers, says Media Centre for National Security: On September 17, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) claimed that the LTTE used CS gas (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, or tear gas) to attack Sri Lankan soldiers recently in the battlefronts of Wanni region. The Army is fully equipped and well geared up to face any unacceptable ‘chemical or gas attacks of the enemy,’ the MCNS added. "A few soldiers in the Wanni during their encounters with the enemy in the most recent past developed breathing difficulties following emission of a gas, believed to have been directed by the Tigers towards the advancing troops," the MCNS pointed out. CS gas is used as a riot control agent and although non-lethal, exposure to CS gas produces severe burning, pain and breathing difficulties. Daily News; Colombo Page, September 18, 2008.

181 LTTE militants and 16 soldiers among 204 persons killed during the week: 181 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 16 soldiers and seven civilians were among 204 persons killed in separate incidents between September 8 and September 14, 2008. 11 LTTE militants were killed and at least six others injured by the troops, as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Periyamadu, east of Nachchakuda and Vannavikulam areas in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi Districts on September 7. Four soldiers sustained injuries due to mortar fire and detonation of an anti-personnel mine in these areas. Separately, troops killed 10 militants while injuring nine others as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Nachchakuda, Tambalamunai, Panisaikundumadu and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District to the west of the A-9 road on September 8. The Sri Lanka military said that the combined air and artillery attack by the LTTE over Vavuniya in the pre dawn hours of September 9 killed 21 combatants on both sides. The security forces (SFs) also shot down one of the two LTTE aircrafts providing support to the outfit’s artillery attack. Further, 10 LTTE militants were killed and more than 20 others injured during confrontations with the troops in the areas north of Rumulamunai, Vannavikulam, Kariyalanmodai and Ranaikandanamadu in the Kilinochchi District. At least 19 LTTE militants were killed and five others wounded during clashes with the troops in the Akkarayankulam, Kariyalanmodai, Manirasakulam, Vannavikulam and Pannaikanthakadu areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts on September 11. While one soldier was killed during a confrontation at Pannaikanthakadu, eight other soldiers reportedly were injured in confrontations in Kilinochchi District. Separately, the troops eliminated another 10 militants and wounded eight during separate clashes in the Vedamakilam and north of Palamoddai areas in the Vavuniya District. On September 13, the troops killed 19 militants and injured 20 others during separate clashes in the Akkarayankulam, Vannavikulam and Nachchakuda areas of Kilinochchi District and Andankulam in the Vavuniya District. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 9-15, 2008.

293 LTTE militants and 58 soldiers among 351 persons killed during the week: 293 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 58 soldiers were among 351 persons killed in separate incidents between September 1 and September 7, 2008. The troops clashed with LTTE militants in the Andankulam and north of Kokkuthuduvai areas in Vavuniya District killing 16 of them and injuring 19 others on August 31. Two soldiers were also killed and five soldiers sustained injuries in this incident. During another encounter in the Vannavikulam area of Kilinochchi District, the security forces (SFs) killed seven militants and wounded nine others. Three soldiers were also killed while 16 others sustained injuries in theses clashes. On September 1, 18 militants were killed and 21 others injured during clashes with the troops in the Palamoddai and Navakkulam areas of Vavuniya District. One soldier was also killed while the troops recovered the dead bodies of five slain militants along with three T-56 weapons and one communication set. 44 LTTE cadres were killed and more than 100 others wounded during two days of clashes between the troops and militants in the Malawi area in Mullaitivu District. Three soldiers were also killed while 18 others sustained injuries during these clashes. The troops, which according to earlier reports had captured the Malawi town on September 1, took full control of Malawi on September 2. Separately on September 2, during another encounter between the two sides in the Palamoddai area of Vavuniya District, the SFs killed 19 militants and injured 23 others. One soldier was also killed while another sustained injuries in the incident. On the same day, 17 militants were killed and 18 others wounded during clashes with the troops in the Nachchakuda and Kunchankulam areas of Kilinochchi District. Five soldiers were also killed while 17 others were injured. Further, 10 LTTE militants were killed and 13 others wounded as the troops captured about 400-meters of land at Terankandal in the Akkarayankulam area of Kilinochchi District neutralising an LTTE bunker line. 31 soldiers sustained injuries during these clashes. The troops recovered 12 dead bodies of militants from Padaviya and five dead bodies from Palamoddai in the Vavuniya District, two dead bodies from Trincomalee District and one dead body from the Malawi area in Mullaitivu District.

On September 3, the SFs killed 22 militants, including one LTTE intelligence leader identified as ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ Neelavan, in the Vannavikulam area of Kilinochchi District. 19 partly disfigured and decomposed corpses of soldiers delivered to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) officials by the LTTE in the Mullaitivu District was received by the Army authorities serving Omanthai Entry/Exit point in the Vavuniya District on September 3-evening. At least 18 LTTE militants were killed and three others wounded during clashes with the troops in the Vannavikulam, Andankulam and Akkarayannagar areas of the Kilinochchi and Vavuniya Districts on September 4-morning. Separately, at least nine militants and a soldier were killed as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Akkarayankulam, Mannikkandannadu, Vannavikulam and adjoining areas of Kilinochchi District. Nine more militants and six soldiers were wounded during these clashes. 11 more partly disfigured and decomposed corpses of soldiers delivered to the ICRC officials by the LTTE was received by the Army authorities serving Omanthai Entry/Exit point in the Vavuniya District on September 4-evening. At least 14 LTTE militants were killed during confrontations with the troops in the Thalikkulam, Vedamakilam and North of Palamoddai areas in the Vavuniya District on September 5. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 1-8, 2008.

[South Asian Intelligence Review]

 

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