Friday, June 24, 2011

The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka

Since the Dominion of Ceylon became independent from the British Empire in 1948, it has struggled to achieve stability between its majority Sinhala speaking people and minority Tamil speaking people. Although the first decade of so of freedom was generally a good time for the country, after the election of Soloman Bandaranaike in 1956, the country took a major wrong turning. The policies of radical Socialism and Sinhala nationalism that Mr. Bandaranaike and -after his assassination in 1959- his widow Sirimavo, adopted began to undermine national unity. The generally higher level of education of the Tamils meant that they were more represented in the civil service and and many levels of society. However the determination of the radical Sinhala to create an officially Sinhala speaking, officially Buddhist state alienated the Hindu Tamils and since most could not speak Sinhala fluently, the Tamil population was largely removed from administration and positions of power.

Eventually the radical nationalism of the Sinhala was matched by an even more brutal Tamil national rebellion. In 1976 the so-called Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was set up, and through its indiscriminate tactics, they quickly acquired a justified reputation for savagery. In the end, the Tamil Tigers attempted to break away from the renamed Sri Lanka. The result was a civil war that lasted 16 years.

That war was ended in 2009 with the complete subjugation of the Tamil speaking areas of the island. At the that time, it quickly became clear that tens of thousands of civilians, caught between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan army, had been killed.

As time has passed, it has become clear that the Sri Lankan army committed several massacres.

The national leadership of the country has refused to accept their guilt for these crimes- for crimes they undoubtedly were. Furthermore, since the victory in the war, the Sri Lankan state has failed to even attempt to make compromises with the Tamil speaking minority. If anything, Sinhala chauvinism has grown stronger since the complete defeat of their enemies.

Sri Lanka has essentially become an apartheid state.

As yet further evidence is revealed in the documentary aired recently on Channel Four, the international community is now considering their reaction to the mass murder of civilians that took place, and for which the current government in Columbo is ultimately responsible.

If nothing else, the World Community should insist that the Sri Lankan government ceases its oppression of the Tamil Community. If the LTTE were rightly reviled as the callous murderers that they were, that is no reason to ignore the plight of Tamils across Sri Lanka who are being held guilty of crimes which they are wholly innocent of.

Those that have the perception must make the allowances, and the bloody end to a brutal civil war involved crimes that can not be ignored. If General Gotovina of Croatia and Ratko Mladic of Serbia are facing trial, then those responsible for crimes no less bloody should be forced to face civilian justice too. If the Sri Lankan government will not respond to the justified outrage of the global community, and address this with investigations of their own, then the global community will have to do it for them.

The cells in the Hague are not yet full.

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