Michael Roberts …… A version of this article was presented at the Narratives of War Symposium organized by the University of South Australia in Adelaide on 19-20 November 2013. This is an amplified version.
In reviewing the conflict between the Sinhala-dominated Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamils marshaled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Western-media represented by the BBC and ABC strands of ideology have been critical of both sides for their atrocious activities; but have also been prone to see the Tamils (and thus the Liberation Tigers) as underdogs. That evaluation, when framed within the space of Sri Lanka, is mostly valid for the period before 1983 as well as the situation in the island during the wars. But it is fundamentally misplaced in the context of the propaganda war that has prevailed in the world order from 2008 to the present day.
Directed by the activists of “Tiger International” and the many intelligent Tamil personnel who have been part of the migration process dating back to the 1950s and who have – quite understandably – been alienated by Sri Lankan politics since the mid-1950s, this propaganda has been ramified and powerful. It remains today as an extensive network, one that has been augmented by second-and-third generation Tamil people whose patriotism was sparked by the agitation that developed to a crescendo when the Liberation Tigers slid to defeat in 2008/09. Viewed in the long arc from the 1960s-2010 the consequence is that several Tamil nationalists or sympathizers now hold key positions in Western media, academic and governmental institutions. In comparison with their coordinated campaign the efforts of the Sri Lankan government have been as Lilliputian as demonstrably laughable. Whatever they produce on video cannot even dent the reach and the hegemony exercised by such outlets as the BBC, ABC, Sky, Channel Four, New York Times, Der Spiegel and their like.
The result has been misinformation or exaggeration set in stone and amplified further by gross failures of contextualization through attention to backdrop. To provide examples of duplicitous lie or exaggeration:
- That it was a war without witnesses because foreign journalists could not visit the frontlines.
- That the last five months of war were marked by “siege bombardment” (Weiss), “merciless shelling” (UTHR No 34) and a process of “extermination” (Anonymous, The Economist, 23 April 2009).
- Conversion of the UN Panel’s statement that “a number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths” into a definite figure of 40,000 civilian dead – while sliding over the slipshod methodology which guides even that tentative assessment. Parenthetically, I note that this definitive figure of 40,000 has been aired subsequently by no less a person than Kerry O’Brien and been alluded to indirectly, just last week, by the much lesser person known as David Cameron.
Tunnel-Vision & Missing Backdrop
Cameron’s SKY interview in India just before he emplaned for Lanka for the CHOGM sittings was a measured performance, but he specifically pinpointed “the appalling scenes in the closing stages of the war” and asserted that those scenes “had been verified by the UN,” namely, the report filed by a panel appointed by Ban Ki-Moon, the Darusman Panel as it is called at times. Placed within previous House of Commons debates on the topic as well as the subsequent exchanges in the House, these references inevitably endorsed the figures utilized by the Darusman Panel: “the real issue at stake is the approximately 40,000 women, children and men—innocent people—who were slaughtered at the end of the conflict” in the thundering words of the Conservative Member for Ilford, Mr. Lee Scott, on 13 November 2013.
Apart from the inexcusable conversion of a possibility into a definite fact, Cameron and the British parliamentarians as a body have been as blind as one-sided. Indeed, to use their own vocabulary, they have been “appalling” in their partial readings of the Sri Lankan scenario and their doctoring of the data (note Appendices I and II). As vitally, they have been miserably amiss in their failure to attend to the complexities of context and the measure of proportionality required in any assessment of figures pertaining to the number of civilians who died.
This criticism is best presented in point-form before my essay moves towards the elaboration and clarification of the context in word, picture and map. The British parliamentarians did not
- Attend to the fact that some Tiger fighters and all their auxiliary military personnel were not wearing uniforms so that it was (and is) difficult to always ascertain who was “civilian.”
- Attend to the testimony from a wide variety of sources, including Tamil voices, that the Liberation Tigers often fired on Tamil civilians as they fled their entrapped situation and that on at least one occasion, on 9th February 2009, a female suicide bomber detonated her explosive device at an Army checkpoint killing and wounding 29 (10 civilians and the rest Lankan army personnel) and wounding 64; while the American Charge d’Affaires reported on 7th May that “the LTTE dispatched 2-3 suicide bombers yesterday in fighting within the ‘safe zone’ resulting in heavy casualties on both sides” – constituting what de Silva-Ranasinghe has assessed to be “a veritable security nightmare for frontline troops” from January onwards because most of the civilian escapees fled at night.
- Attend to the evidence that on the odd occasion the Liberation Tigers even fired their own artillery or mortars at their own populace (usually at night) and that the US ambassador reported on the 19th March that they were “widely recruiting from among the trapped population, forcing both young and old to fight, and [were] positioning artillery within civilian concentrations” – both steps that were part of a grand strategy (see below) that sought international intervention to prevent “an impending humanitarian disaster.”
- Attend to the claims of the Sri Lankan authorities to the effect that they adopted “a more cautious strategy” and restricted the use of artillery because of the presence of so many civilians, thereby consciously enduring more military casualties.
- Attend to the recognition of this fact (4 above) by foreign observers in Colombo, both Jacques de Maio in May and US Ambassador Butenis (in a subsequent assessment on 9th October 2009) who told her superiors in a secret dispatch that “most outside, neutral observers privately agree that the [government of Sri Lanka] could have finished off the LTTE more quickly if they had been willing to risk a higher level of civilian casualties” (see Wikileaks in Appendix III).
- Attend to the fact that the Sri Lankan authorities were aware that USA and India were tracking the battles on satellite and would spot any inordinate use of force: so that on 11th May 2009 the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa challenged the claims that were being peddled by Tamils inside and outside the battle zone by asserting that “the army couldn’t have mounted a large scale artillery assault without the international community knowing it” – a clear indication that the government was alive to the oversight by satellite sustained by India and USA.
- Attend to the aeronautical engineer Citizen Silva’s conclusion that most of the craters in the Last Redoubt located through satellite imagery were from mortars not artillery (IDAG 2013)
- Attend to the guesswork computations on the number of civilians who died by placing this sum within a broader canvas of figures (4a) for estimated Liberation Tiger dead during Eelam War IV; (4b) the estimated number of government forces (mostly Army but also others) who died in the course of Eelam War IV; and, last but not least, (4c) the number of Tamil civilians and Tiger personnel who survived the entrapped situation in “the Vanni Pocket” (see Map II below) during the last phase of the war in the months of January–May 2009 (see Appendices I and II).
- It is only by carefully weighting the different sets of figures referred to in point 4 above that anyone can secure what Indi Samarajiva has conceptualized as “proportionality.” In summary, these figures indicate that (1) during Eelam War IV the government forces lost at least 6,261 personnel in action, while the LTTE is said to have lost 22,247 cadres (with 11,812 identified by name); and that (2) any statistic on civilian deaths must be placed alongside the number of civilians and Liberation Tiger personnel who survived. This figure is 295,873 – an astounding number when one considers the circumstances that prevailed between 1st January 2009 and 19th May 2009, a scenario revealed by word, picture and map in this brief survey, but also available elsewhere for those who seek a fuller picture.
- Among the several rough estimates of “civilian dead,” the most grounded estimates in my assessment, separate ones from Narendran Rajasingham and Citizen Silva, yield a range of dead from 10,000-18,700 (see Appendix I presented separately). This figure includes natural deaths and those killed in crossfire as well as deliberate Tiger shooting when people were escaping. The sacrificial devotion to cause among hardcore Tiger cadres was such that they felt it was quite legitimate for “their people” to endure similar burdens and to show similar commitment. One of the civilians who escaped, a Tamil lady 48 named Rasamalar, testified thus: “the organization said we were going to die anyway if we crossed to the army-controlled area and told us to die with them” (de Silva-Ranasinghe 2010b: 4).
Taken together this ensemble of facts provides one with a perspective that is lost in the one-sided emphasis pressed by Tamil and other agit-prop networks on the one hand and, on the other, by those abroad who swallow these contentions. The implications of this suite of facts gathers even greater significance when framed within the grand Liberation Tiger strategy which ensured that their own people, some 300,000 people (omitting the fighting and logistical elements who could have numbered anything up to another 20,000-35,000 thousand), were kept within the Vanni Pocket so that they could be used as a bargaining tool for international intervention.
Our “suffering and endangered” people, then, was a refrain that was nothing less than a ransom ploy. The “impending humanitarian disaster” that was proclaimed aloud by Human Rights Watch, a host of other civil rights organizations, sympathetic journalists and sympathetic politicians was a creation of the Liberation Tigers. Speaking to the media in New York on 26 March 2009 John Holmes of the UN admitted as much when he remarked that “the civilians trapped … they are not being allowed to leave by the LTTE.”
In chastising the Sri Lankan government for “slaughtering” thousands of Tamils and in their public display of moral righteousness Cameron and his parliamentary colleagues continue to demonstrate a degree of tunnel-vision and a tweaking of the facts in ways that bring their own ethics into question. One can understand how intelligent British individuals such as Michael Atherton and the late Peter Roebuck were swayed by Channel Four’s kangaroo court embodied within the blitzkrieg film “Killing Fields.” But a government with access to military analysts and a vast array of information has no excuse for the colossal blindness that I am highlighting in this essay. Nor have the BBC and other powerful media outlets in the Western world any excuse for their partialities and tunnel-vision. The massaging of facts and a failure to place strands of information within a holistic scenario promotes misrepresentation.
In order to substantiate these threads of criticism my focus today will be on the last phase of Eelam War IV in 2008-09. But this phase must be reviewed in context: CONTEXT TEMPORAL, CONTEXT SPATIAL and CONTEXT STRATEGIC.
Here, for reasons of time and economy, I restrict myself to three basic aspects, namely: (A) identifying the four phases of war
- EELAM WAR I = 1983-1990
- EELAM WAR II = June 1990-1994
- EELAM WAR III = April 1995- 2000
- EELAM WAR IV = July 2006-May 2009
(B) Stressing that Eelam War IV was initiated in July 2006 when the LTTE closed the gates of Mavil Aru irrigation weir as their initial step in a plan to squeeze and threaten Trincomalee naval base (Mehta 2010: 3).
(C) Noting that once the war turned sour on the Liberation Tigers in early-mid-2008, their hopes were invested in the Indian General Election scheduled for mid-May 2009 as a possible source of intervention which would ensure their survival if a coalition government dependent on Tamilnadu seats came to power. Inevitably, the Liberation Tigers’ hopes became a deadline for the Sri Lankan government’s military campaign as well. Regional geopolitics therefore had a bearing on the local situation.
MAP 1: depicting the territory held by the LTTE in the north from 1996-2007 after it lost its mosaic of territory in the east and BEFORE the SL army were able to advance along the north western coastline and thereby break the LTTE smuggling supply lines from India.
Thamilīlam was a de facto state commanded by Pirapāharan from 1990-2009. Though the Liberation Tigers held only patches of territory in the Eastern Province, it ruled a considerable chunk of contiguous territory in the Northern Province – territory with clearly marked borders and formal customs barriers at entry points (see Map 1). From late 1995 this area housed about 380,000 people (figure uncertain?) including an estimated 80-100,000 or so who had voluntarily moved there from the Jaffna Peninsula in 1995/96 when the Liberation Tigers lost most of the western terrain it had held from 1990.
These people were dual citizens in a technical sense because the government of Sri Lanka considered them to be “Sri Lankan” and therefore sent pensions to the pensioners registered therein and appointed Tamil officials in the main line administrative departments and paid their salaries – so that one pillar of the Thamilīlam economy was constituted by these monies. All the officials, however, took their orders from the Tigers who commanded the heights and ran their own judicial system; while the Liberation Tigers would seem to have had as many as 30,000 trained personnel by 2007.
Standing in mid-2006 there is little doubt that the vast majority of this populace encompassed within Thamilīlam favoured the Liberation Tigers, though there were a few were ready to voice concerns sotto voice to trusted visitors. Pirapāharan may have been seen as a despot; but he was their despot, their Napoleon. As Muralidhar Reddy told me (in 2009), the people had little reason to look towards the Sri Lankan government with any loyalty. They seem to have participated readily in the disciplines and training in weaponry when marshalled in the makkal padai or peoples’ army – an organisation initiated by the Liberation Tigers in late 2004. However, when war commenced and conscription was ratcheted up with heavy demands on the youth (including children under 16) there certainly was disquiet among segments of the citizenry of Thamilīlam.
When the Liberation Tigers lost its hold on the north-western coast in early 2008 it deployed its standard frontline tactic of bund-and-ditch with booby traps and land mines as it retreated; while ordering the people in the western part of Thamilīlam to move eastwards ahead of the receding borders. Most seem to have done so voluntarily because they had absorbed the demonized picture of the Sri Lankan Army that permeated Tamil society (not without substance arising from past experiences in the 1970s-90s) and was continuously disseminated by the Liberation Tigers. However, when the more populated segments along the A9 arterial road were embraced by the warfront and the whole mass of perhaps 300,000 people were forced into shrinking space together with some 20-35,000 (in surmise) Tiger personnel and were thereby trapped in a furnace of war within the “Vanni Pocket” (see red section in Map II depicting an area of roughly 1900 sq. km), the degree of acquiescence began to decline considerably – though large numbers still believed in the Liberation Tiger claim that international interventions would save their state and people.
MAP 2: War Front on 23 December 2008 –Ministry of Defence. Once Paranthan fell to the SL Army by the end of December Kilinochchi had to be abandoned and it is significant that this was precisely the moment when Pirapāharan contacted KP abroad and asked him to secure a ceasefire through international intervention (Jeyaraj 2011: 31).
Moreover, at some point in February the Liberation Tigers assembled most of these people in the coastal strip east of the lagoon area in order to forestall any amphibious operation by the Sri Lankan forces that would box in the Tigers and prevent their escape by sea with the aid of international agencies. This area was roughly 12 by 2 km, or 24 square kilometres all told. It thereby constituted what I call the “Last Redoubt” – a heavily congested area albeit in select patches and alongside the main untarred road (see Map 3 and Appendix IV: Congestion in the “Vanni Pocket” January-May 2009).
Liberation Tiger Strategy from late 2008
The Tiger high command deployed their people in this manner because the mass of people served
(a) as a pool of labour for defensive works (bunds, ditches) and logistical support;
(b) as a source of new conscripts: and
(c) as a “human shield – that is, as so many sandbags.
But the primary rationale for the mass of citizenry as resource was to create a situation where the Liberation Tigers could cry wolf in the form of “an impending humanitarian disaster.” As the political commissar Puleedevan told some friends in Europe “just as in Kosovo if enough civilians died … the world would be forced to step in” (quoted in Harrison 2012: 63). We “had to magnify the humanitarian crisis,” explained KP subsequently (Jeyaraj 2011: 25, 30).
The Tamil citizenry therefore became a pawn in this strategy, a mass of bargaining chips in a gargantuan ransom act – an international record in fact — which came to the fore at some point in late 2008. Central to this strategy was the support of civil rights INGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Organisation whose ideological leanings could be exploited by Tamil agents abroad. The secular fundamentalism and either/or modalities of thinking that run through such organisations were ripe for the plucking. Several INGOs and NGOs based in Sri Lanka were drawn into this pool of voices expressing concern about the fate of the citizenry of Thamilīlam. So too were several Western ambassadors.
There certainly was cause for concern. However, their genuine concern rendered these forces into Liberation Tiger catspaws because they faced the government and yelled “Ceasefire.” The demand was, for the most part, one way. As Citizen Silva has discerned, an apocalyptic vision seems to have enveloped UN circles in Colombo and New York and clouded their evaluations.
Everyone located in Lanka and all those who knew Pirapāharan were fully alive to the fact that the Liberation Tigers would not stop fighting. When President Rajapaksa asked for an unconditional surrender on 1st January – a demand repeated on several other occasions — there was, predictably, no response. A unilateral ceasefire declared by the government of Sri Lanka circa 31 January even saw a Liberation Tiger counter-attack which pushed the Sri Lanka Army back several miles.
Only a few Western journalists seem to have been alive to the fact that a ceasefire was a one-sided benefit to a warring force on its last legs. Simon Jenkins was one of these. In chastising David Miliband for his grandstanding, he noted that “in Sri Lanka a rudimentary study of the past three months of fighting would have told Miliband that a ceasefire would be pro-Tamil, not just “pro-humanitarian” (2009). Most media personnel, however, seem to have been BBC blind.
The latter failure is not surprising: the Fourth Estate in Western circles had been thoroughly alienated by the intimidation, abduction and killing of several local journalists in Sri Lanka in the years 2006-09, actions which could be credibly assigned in surmise to the government’s paramilitary Tamil allies or its intelligence services. In this context it would not be misplaced to say that a few Western journalists (e.g. Marie Colvin, Frances Harrison) were allies of the Liberation Tigers.
What I find remarkable is the fact that major international players, namely, USA, Britain and France, did not comprehend this grand strategic picture or recognise that
(i) the Sri Lankan government also had a responsibility towards some 19,900,000 other people in Sri Lanka – not just the trapped Tamil citizenry held in “bondage” (to use the voice of DBS Jeyaraj); and
(ii) the Sri Lankan government was therefore faced with a Hobson’s Choice – albeit one directed by a temporal history that demanded that the elected government of Sri Lanka should defeat the Liberation Tigers as a military outfit once and for all.
A permanent ceasefire, or even a prolonged pause in military action, was an escape hatch for the Liberation Tigers. For those attuned to the Tiger way of thinking and their sacrificial devotion – arppaNippu or dedication to cause or deity involving “life-as weapon” (uyirāyutham) – a ceasefire meant Eelam War V at some point. When Pirapahāran reinstated his old confidante KP, namely, Selvarāsa Pathmanāthan, on 31 December 2008 in order to head the international arms wing of the Liberation Tigers, he instructed him “to spearhead the task of bringing about a ceasefire and getting the LTTE a respite” (Jeyaraj 2011: 31).
By March 2009 KP Pathmanāthan (located in Malaysia) seems to have forged a tentative plan with US authorities for (a) the Liberation Tigers to lock-off their heavy weapons in specified locations; while (b) other areas would be deemed no-fire zones and (c) the US Pacific Command would then transport the Tamil civilians by sea to Trincomalee (Jeyaraj 2011: 29-32). Whether the Sri Lankan government had been sounded out on this plan is unclear. It never got off the ground because Pirapahāran said “nay.” Though there is strong testimony indicating that by the 10th May the Liberation Tiger high command had concluded that their chances of survival were slim, even as late as the 15th May, KP urged the “international community to shed its cloak of indifference and save the hapless Tamil civilians on the brink of extinction at the hands of the barbaric [Sri Lankan forces]” (TamilNet, 15 May 2009).
That USA and some Western governments seriously considered the idea of a military intervention in this manner is quite mind-boggling: an idea reminiscent of British gunboat diplomacy during its nineteenth century imperial era and a modality of thinking that has affinities to the reasoning which led George Bush into the invasion of Iraq. That the Foreign Ministers of France and Britain rushed to Lanka in late April 2009 to try and force the government to stop its advancing forces is even more astonishing. That Hilary Clinton proclaimed to the world on 22 April 2009 that “a terrible humanitarian tragedy [was] taking place” is even more surprising – especially since an intricate military operation on the 19-20 April had split the Last Redoubt of the Liberation Tigers and released some 103,143 Tamil citizens and deserting Tiger personnel (at a cost of perhaps 1500 Tamil lives in the estimate worked out by Citizen Silva, the main hand in IDAG 2013) who streamed out of the Last Redoubt on the three days 20-21-22 April.
Fig.1 Part of an “Exodus” in large numbers in the Vishvamadu area, 20-22 April 2009 as far as I can work out (the cameraperson would have been on the govt side). SEE Appendix IV for more pictorial illustrations.
Having witnessed this miracle unfold on local TV in Colombo in April (courtesy of what was clearly pro-government TV footage, but displaying live happenings on the front), I was as amazed as livid. That is why I responded to a request conveyed by Reddy for an article on the conflict situation (for Frontline) and chastised Clinton then in late April 2009 – calling her stance quite “simpleton.”
That is why I consider David Cameron and the British parliamentarians’ stance today to be quite one-sided and context blind when they speak (erroneously as it happens) of thousands slaughtered and obliterate the fact that the anvil of entrapment was engineered by the Liberation Tigers as a bargaining strategy, that is, as an act of ransom and blackmail. Their thinking is directed by simplistic sound bites that totally discount the temporal-spatial and strategic backdrop shaping the last phase of the war. This seems to be a generalised set of failings in the media networks of the BBC-type in the English speaking world; while they permeate the black-and-white blindness revealed by the legalist/fundamentalist fraternity represented by such personnel as Geoffrey Robertson and John Dowd. Moral righteousness is a dangerous phenomenon when it is so BBC-blind.
APPENDICES presented as separate posts
I. Estimates of the Tamil Civilian Death Toll during the Last Phase of Eelam War IV in 2009 https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/estimates-of-the-tamil-civilian-death-toll-during-the-last-phase-of-eelam-war-iv-in-2009-appendix-i-for-bbc-blind/#more-11226
II, Estimates of the Death Toll among the Fighting Forces of the LTTE and Government of Sri Lanka https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/estimates-of-the-death-toll-among-the-fighting-forces-of-the-ltte-and-government-of-sri-lanka/#more-11234
III. Wikileak Disclosures of Secret US Despatches on the Last Phase of Eelam War IV in 2009 https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/wikileak-disclosures-of-secret-us-despatches-on-the-last-phase-of-eelam-war-iv-in-2009-appendix-iii-for-bbc-blind/
IV. Congestion in the “Vanni Pocket,” January-May 2009: Appendix V for “BBC Blind” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/congestion-in-the-vanni-pocket-january-may-2009-appendix-iv-for-bbc-blind/
V. Pictorial Illustrations of the Mass Exodus from the Last Redoubt, 20-22 April and mid-May 2009
PLUS: since posting this article I have just been led to this review of “Killing Fields” by a body or people living in UK: Corrupted Journalism. Channel 4 and Sri Lanka. A Collective Work by Engage Sri Lanka 2013 …… http://www.corruptedjournalism.com/book/Corrupted%20Journalism.pdf .
BIBLIOGRAPHY for BBC Blind
ABC 2013 “Continuing Genocide in Sri Lanka – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) http://www.lobbyforpeace.com Sri Lanka, OR http://search.mywebsearch.com /mywebsearch/video.jhtml?searchfor=ABC+VIDEO+ON+SRI+LANKA&id=UXxdm014YYau&n=77edea53&ptnrS=UXxdm014YYau&ss=sub&st=sb&ptb=BCB5529D-57B4-40DA-B145-2649C52BFBCF&tpr=&si=maps4pc&vid=e05NpvXpeKc
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Citizen Silva See IDAG
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Narayan Swamy, M. R. 2003 Inside an Elusive Mind. Prabhakaran, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.
Noble, Kath 2013 “Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: The full monty,” 14 July 2013, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/numbers-game-reviewed-by-kath-noble-the-full-monty/
Padraig Colman 2011 “Evaluating the ‘Churnalism’ from Channel 4 and the Moon Panel,” 17 August 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/a-credible-evaluation-of-%e2%80%9cchurnalism%e2%80%9d-from-channel-4-and-the-moon-panel/.
Padraig Colman 2011 “the Cage by Gordon Weiss,” Island, 13 May 2013, 2http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=78825
Peiris, Gerald H. 2002. “Secessionist War and Terrorism in Sri Lanka: Transnational Impulses,” in K. P. S. Gill & Ajai Sahni (eds.) The Global Threat of Terror. Ideological, Material & Political Linkages, Delhi: Roli Books, Bulwark Books & Institute for Conflict Management, pp. 85-12.
Prasad, Kanchan 2011a “Indian Reporter Pics at NFZ-14-to-18 May 2009,” http://www.flickr.com/photos/thuppahi/sets/72157626797805167/
Prasad, Kanchan 2011b “Mullivaikkal Hospital in NFZ Last Redoubt,” in http://www.flickr.com/photos/thuppahi/sets/72157626797848747/
Prasad, Kanchan 2011c “Two Indian Reporters’ Post-War Pictures at the LTTE’s Last Redoubt, May 14-19, 2009,” ed. by Roberts, June 2011, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2011/06/10/two-indian-reporters%E2%80%99-post-war-pictures-at-the-ltte%E2%80%99s-last-redoubt-may-14-19-2009
Rajasingham, Narendran 2009 “Rise and Fall of the LTTE — An Overview,” Sri Lanka Guardian, 7 Feb. 2009, http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/02/rise-and-fall-of-ltte-overview.html.
Rajasingham, Narendran 2010 “Pro-LTTE Diaspora pursue Eelam Agenda without Any Thought about Tamils living in Sri Lanka,” 26 May 2010, http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/05/proltte_diaspora_pursue_eelam.html.
Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009a “An Escape from Hellhole,” http://www.hindu.com/ 2009/04/25/stories/2009042558390100.html.
Reddy, Muralidhar 2009b “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity.” The Hindu, 27 May 2009, http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/27/stories/2009052755811500.htm
Reddy, Muralidhar 2009c “A first-hand account of the war and the civilians’ plight as Eelam War almost comes to a close,” Frontline, 26/11, May 23-June 5, 2009
Reddy, Muralidhar 2009d “An eye-witness account of the last 70 hours of Eelam War IV,” Frontline, 26/12: June 6-19, 2009.
- 2008 “Tamil Tigers: Sacrificial Symbolism and ‘Dead Body Politics’,” Anthropology Today, 24/3: 22-23.
- 2009a “Dilemma’s at War’s End: Thoughts on Hard Realities,” http://www.groundviews.org, 10 Feb. 2009.
- 2009b “The Rajapaksa Regime and the Fourth Estate,” 9 December 2009, www.groundviews.org.
- 2010a “Hitler, Nationalism, Sacrifice: Koenigsberg and Beyond…Towards the Tamil Tigers,” http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/03/hitler-nationalism-sacrifice.html.
- 2010a “Realities of War,” Frontline, 9-22 May 2009, vol. 26, http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=archive … later reprinted with different title in Roberts, Fire and Storm, 2011.
- 2010c Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.
- 2010d “Self Annihilation for Political Cause: Cultural Premises in Tamil Tiger Selflessness,” in Roberts, Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics, Colombo: Yapa, pp. 161-201.
- 2011a “A Think-Piece drafted in May 2011,” http://thuppahi.wordpress. com /2011/07/23/a-think-piece-drafted-in-may/#more-2998, 23 July 201
- 2011b “Reading “devastation”: Botham, CMJ, Ban Ki-Moon,” 10 June 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/reading%E2%80%9Cdevastation%E2%80%9 D-botham-cmj-ban-ki-moon/
- 2011c “People of Righteousness target Sri Lanka,” 27 June 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com /2011/06/27/people-of-righteousness-target-sri-lanka/
- 2011d “A Think-Piece drafted in May 2011,” http://thuppahi.wordpress. com /2011/07/23/a-think-piece-drafted-in-may/#more-2998, 23 July 2011.
- 2011e “The Tamil Death Toll in early 2009: Challenging Rohan Gunaratna,” 1 December 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/the -tamil-death-toll-in-early-2009-challenging-rohan-gunaratna/ and http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/6285
- “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/amnesty-international-reveals-its-flawed-tunnel-vision-on-sri-lanka-in-2009/
- 2012a “The Torture Scene in ‘Killing Fields’ and Gordon Weiss,” 9 January 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-torture-scene-in-killing-fields-and-gordon-weiss/
- 2012b “Misreading and Distorting the Sri Lankan War, 2009-2012,” 25 May 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/misreading-and-distorting-the-sri-lankan-war-2009-2012/
- 2012c “The Disappeared in Sri Lanka’s War in the Recent Past: What is missing in those “Missing”? 27 May, 2012 http://groundviews.org/2012/05/27/the-disappeared-in-sri-lankas-war-in-the-recent-past-what-is-missing-in-those-missing/
- 2013a “Pragmatic Action and Enchanted Worlds: A Black Tiger Rite of Commemoration,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/pragmatic-action-enchanted-worlds-a-black-tiger-rite-of-commemoration/…a reprint of an article in Social Analysis, 2006, 73–102.
- 2013b “Introducing “Numbers Game” – A Detailed Study of the Last Stages of Eelam War IV,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/introducing-numbers-game-a-detailed-study-of-the-last-stages-of-eelam-war-iv/
- 2014 “Towards Citizenshp in Thāmilīlam: The Tamil People of the North, 2 1983-2010,” in Roberts, Tamil Person and State: Essays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, pp. 132-183.
Samarajiva, Indi 2012 “Channel 4’s – A Review,” The Nation, 18 March 2012, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131118/debtext/131118-0001.htm#1311188000001
SATP 2013 “Sri Lanka Terror Assessment, 2013 – Analysis,” 13 January 2013, http://www.eurasiareview.com/29012013-sri-lanka-terror-assessment-2013-analysis/
Schalk, Peter 2003 “Beyond Hindu Festivals: The Celebration of Great Heroes’ Day by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Europe,” in Martin Baumann et al. (eds.) Tempel und Tamilien in Zweiter Heimat. Wurzburg: Ergon Verlag, pp. 391-411.
Sri Lanka Media Watch 2011 “Appalling Journalism. Jon Snow and Channel 4 News on Sri Lanka,” November 2011, http://www.defence.lk/news/pdf/Appalling%20Journalism.pdf
Senaratne, Kalana 2011 “Killing Fields: Problems and Prospects, “The Island, 24 June 2011 [also in https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/killing-fields%E2%80%99-problems-and-prospects/].
Sri Lanka Government 2013 “The Last Phase,” video film, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngNeF5WY64s.
Sri Lanka Media Watch 2011 “Appalling Journalism. Jon Snow and Channel 4 News on Sri Lanka,” November 2011, http://www.defence.lk/news/pdf/Appalling%20Journalism.pdf.
Sri Lanka Media Watch 2012 “An Unreliable Witness. Gordon Weiss, The Cage and Sri Lanka,” http://webdesginottawa.me/slembassyparis/index.php?option=com_content& view=article&id=745%3Aan-unreliable-witness-gordon-weiss-the-cage-and-sri-lanka-&catid=100%3Aheadlines&Itemid=313&lang=en.
Swami, Praveen 2013 “From Sri Lanka – questions about wars,” November 2013, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/from-sri-lanka-questions-about-wars/article5369777.ece.
Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2009 “Sri Lanka: The Last Phase in Eelam War IV. From Chundikulam to Pudukulam,” New Delhi: Centre for Land Warfare, Manekshaw Paper No. 13, http://www.claws.in/administrator/uploaded_files/1274263403MP%2022.pdf
Tekwani, Shyam 2009 ‘The Man who destroyed Eelam,” http://www.tehelka.com/home /20090523/default.asp.
Tekwani, Shyam 2011 “The long afterlife of war in teardrop isle,” http://tehelka.com/ story_main50.asp?filename=Ws290811long.asp.
Thangavelu, Velupillai 2013 “LTTE Cadres Who Surrendered To The Army: Where Are They?” Colombo Telegraph, 18 August 2013, http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ltte-cadres-who-surrendered-to-the-army-where-are-they/.
Thangavelu, Velupillai 2013 “LTTE Cadres Who Surrendered To The Army: Where Are They?” Colombo Telegraph, 18 August 2013, http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ltte-cadres-who-surrendered-to-the-army-where-are-they/.
Times 2011 TIMES Aerial Images, NFZ Last Redoubt, 23 May 2009,” http://www.flickr.com/ photos/thuppahi/sets/72157626922360092/
Weiss, Gordon 2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sri-lanka-faces-its-srebrenica-moment/story-e6frg6ux-1226043466322.
United Nations See Darusman Report
United Nations See Petrie Report
UNSG 2011 Report of the UN Secretary General’s (UNSG) Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf.
UTHR 2009 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lanka’s Victims of War. Special Report No. 34, http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/Special%20rep34/Uthr-sp.rp34.htm.
Weerasekera, Dharshan 2013 “The Illegality of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s approach to Sri Lanka,” http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2013/03/19/the-illegality-of-un-secretary-general-ban-ki-moons-approach-to-sri-lanka/view-all/.
Weiss, Gordon 2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sri-lanka-faces-its-srebrenica-moment/story-e6frg6ux-1226043466322.
Weiss, Gordon 2011b The Cage, Sydney: Picador.
You Tube Power Point 2011a “Technical Analysis of Channel 4 Killing Fields,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRrGDPKVJh0
You Tube Power Point 2011b “British Channel 4 TV Allegations manipulating the Medium,” http://www.globalpeacesupport.com/globalpeacesupport.com/post/ 2011/06/13/Channel-4-video-a-fake-concludes-video-forensic-analyst.aspx.
SECULAR FUNDAMENTALISM RULING THE WAVES
Michael Roberts 2011 “A Think-Piece drafted in May 2011,” 23 July 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/a-think-piece-drafted-in-may/#more-2998
Michael Roberts 2011 “People of Righteousness target Sri Lanka,” 27 June 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/people-of-righteousness-target-sri-lanka/
Michael Roberts 2011 “Reading “devastation”: Botham, CMJ, Ban Ki-Moon,” 10 June 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/reading%E2%80%9Cdevastation%E2%80%9 D-botham-cmj-ban-ki-moon/
Michael Roberts 2011b “Incorrigible Watch-Dogs of the Human Rights World,” 30 November 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/incorrigible-watch-dogs-of-the-human-rights-world=2/#more-4355
Michael Roberts 2012 “The Torture Scene in ‘Killing Fields’ and Gordon Weiss,” 9 January 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-torture-scene-in-killing-fields-and-gordon-weiss/
Michael Roberts 2012 “Misreading and Distorting the Sri Lankan War, 2009-2012,” 25 May 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/misreading-and-distorting-the-sri-lankan-war-2009-2012/
 My shorthand for the organised networks of the LTTE in the world beyond Lanka from 1983/84 to the present day. See Chalk 1999, Gerald Peiris 2002 and Jeyaraj 2011 for some data. Also note Carment & Sami 2013.
 Burghers, Sinhalese Tamils and others of educated middle class status migrated to UK and the West from the 1950s and to the British colonies in Africa from the 1960s. Most of those who went to Africa eventually moved to the West.
 Note this concluding comment in Groundviews by Harshula during the 2011 CHOGM propaganda war: “The Australian news media has been unable to differentiate between those primarily motivated by separatism, the creation of Tamil Eelam, and those primarily motivated by human rights issues in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the Tamil Eelam lobbyists are radicalised ’true-believers’ that shout the loudest and drown out the voice of the majority of Sri Lankans, Sinhala and Tamil. The media, with their time constraints, want a quick and controversial story. Hence it is unlikely the Australian media even knew of Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran’s background or John Dowd’s political views. Ignorance rather than malice is the likely reason for the omission of material facts” (2011:c)
 The government’s counter to Killing Fields have included ”Lies Agreed Upon” (GSL 2011) and the recent video entitled “The Last Phase” (GSL 2013). While clearly propaganda, the latter film is a clever presentation which works all the better because I could not understand the voices of the Tamil Tiger survivors featured in the film (see http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ngNeF5WY64s). Obviously, no product, whether in film, prose or song, is free of subjectivity. This applies to my essay.
 Thus David Cameron referred to “the excellent documentary” by Channel Four (Sunday Island, 17 November 2013). Note the verdict provided by a video specialist Hewavitharana 2011b and 2011c. Also Sri Lanka Media Watch 2011, Senaratne 2011 and Ladduwahetty 2013.
 A think tank in India recently remarked that there was a “vicious, motivated and one-sided campaign of disinformation on the question of human rights violations during the terminal phases of the conflict with the LTTE” (SATP 2013).
 For evidence that refutes this claim, see Gray 2009; Reddy 2009c, Reddy 2009d & Weerasekera 2013. Especially study and absorb http://www.scribd .com/doc/185693507/SL-ARMY-Media-Accreditation-to-War-Zone-2007-2009 — a list I managed to extract in late 2011 from a Ministry of Defence source. The puzzle that develops from this information is what the editorial staff of the BBC, Times, Guardian and their like did with these filed reports.
 Note the considered verdict from a competent team assembled by a think tank in Sri Lanka (Marga, Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, 2011, http://www. margasrilanka.org /Truth-Accountability.pdf. Alas, such studies are not considered in high circles in the West and the human rights bodies with Sri Lankan experts seem to ignore their existence.
 See quotation from Rajan Hoole of the UTHR collective in de Silva-Ranasinghe, “Information Warfare,” 2010a: 37.
 Roberts 2014: 157 and http//ww.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090209_06.
 See Wikileaks in Appendix IV.
 “Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, vol. 36, p. 20. However, this has to be balanced by consideration of the weighty evidence from the UTHR investigation via testimony identifying indiscriminate shelling at various stages in the struggle (UTHR Report No 34, espec. 1.6 and Part V).
15] See the testimony from one Maniam re an incident near Iranapalai at 6.25 pm in mid-late January 2009 when the LTTE artillery changed direction in its gun fire—and he later discovered the shells hit their own people near Puttumattalan–a fact that a Tiger cadre confirmed (when confronted) by stating that “the people must suffer” (see UTHR No. 34, 2009 and IDAG 2013: 4.1.1).
 Wikileaks – see Appendix IV.
 Note Gothabaya Rajapaksa’ statement quoted in De Silva Ranasinghe 2009a: 20 and General Fonseka in De Silva-Ranasinghe 2009d: 46. Fonseka illustrates the government’s argument by stating that “100 soldiers died in the last week and over 150 [were] killed a week before” – the reference being to the final battles in mid-May. Fonseka’s assertions are at times too sweeping. Heavy firepower was certainly used when the Liberation Tigers assembling for a counter-attack in the jungles at Aananthapuram in early April were spotted and mauled by a suite of weaponry of all types. They lost some 620 fighters and several senior commanders in a couple of days (Jeyaraj 2010). It is this singular patch of scorched earth that was featured by BBC at some point in 2009 and then again more recently – see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/southasia/8016965.stm. On both occasions and in the Groundviews reproduction of this picture the argument implied that what readers were seeing was a generalised picture of the battle terrain in the Last Redoubt. There is a prima facie case of duplicity here. Whether the Government of Sri Lanka’s claims regarding the reduced use of artillery applies to the months of January-to-March remains an open question. The testimonies provided by the UTHR collective (Report No. 34) raise doubts about the validity of this generalisation.
 See Wikileaks in Appendix IV.
 Statement quoted by James Moore on 11 May 2011 – see Wikileaks in Appendix.
 Samarajiva is an occasional journalist but one whose calibre of work places him far above Macrae, Moore and several Australian journalists (e. g. Doherty) who have been reporting on Sri Lanka. See Samarajiva 2012.
 Figures provided by Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, interview with Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May 2009, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/victorys-price-6200-sri-lankan-troops-20090522-bi4f.html. However, elsewhere the government provided figures of 5,556 personnel killed in action, 169 MIA and 28,414 wounded (LLRC 2011: section 3.30). See Appendix II.
 See LLRC 2011: section 3.30 – note that the government figures re the named LTTE personnel would have come from intercepted radio transmissions. For fuller details, see Appendix II.
 Figures released by the UNHCR or GSL in 2009 (see Roberts 2014: 159). However note that the 12,000 figure for Tiger detainees probably included earlier arrests in 2007-09 and could be scaled down to circa 11,000; while the figure of 295.873 IDPs also should be treated with circumspection as a rough guide pointing towards a “true figure” that could range between 285,000 and 301,000.
 Referring to the escape process of January to May 2009 Rajan Hoole of UTHR said that the “overwhelming reports from IDPs indicate that more people attempting to flee have been killed by the LTTE than by army snipers” (quoted in de Silva-Ranasinghe, “Information Warfare,” 2010a: 37).
 Several of these politicians are said to have significant Tamil voting blocs in their constituencies; while several of the reporters seem to be those of radical-liberal and even Marxist leanings. This, however, is surmise on my part an calls for investigation.
 Watch http://content.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,187756390011889799,00.html or http://youtu.be/tikQZTbDxg. Holmes was then Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
 Note the recent critique http://www.corruptedjournalism.com/book/Corrupted%20Journalism.pdf. Atherton supported the calls for a cancellation of the Sri Lankan cricket tour of England in 2011. In response to an item which I sent him on the propaganda war the late Peter Roebuck sent me an email on 28 October 2011 in his typical staccato-style of short note sentences which ran thus: “did not trust that Meena from the start // not sure its the real issue though// think the real issues are the executions, killings, suppression and corruption// think SL better advised to admit a lot and move on// has anyone offered any alternative views to the executions seen in the footage? // has the herding and killing been convincingly denied?” Roebuck to my knowledge was far better informed about Sri Lanka than such individuals as Atherton; so the degree to which he had been swayed by Killing Fields is instructive.
 More fine-tuned presentations would have to add (1) India’s IPKF intervention from August 1987 – leading to guerilla war between LTTE and the might of India in northern & eastern Lanka till late 1989; and (2) the civil war between the JVP insurgency and the government in 1987-89 which led to perhaps 40,000 deaths in the Sinhala-majority areas.
 Note Mehta 2010: 10.
 Most of the major banks had offices staffed by Tamils at Kilinochchi, the administrative capital of Thamiliīam, and could transfer money in and out. Thus Diaspora Tamils could send remittances to kin folk within Thamilīlam.
 The 30,000 figure is an unverified GSL claim (also found in Wikipedia). Though Sarvananthan indicated (email response, Nov. 2013) that they only had 6,000 fighters in all branches in 2006, this figures seems far too low – especially if you take those in the Eastern Province into account. In any event the various estimates for LTTE dead (see Appendix II) and those held in government prisons in 2009 suggest that the LTTE had built up their fighting cadre to proportions that could have been as much as 25,000-35,000.
 For instance, Anoma Rajakaruna who visited Thamilīlam off and on in the period 2002-06 as part of her film-making work on women in Sri Lanka and thus met such personnel as Thamilini and other citizens of the de facto state (my conversations in June and November 2010).
 Reddy (of Telugu-background) is a journalist for The Hindu chain of newspapers based in Chennai and had been in Colombo for some time. He had visited the rear war front on many occasions from October or so and had interviewed a fair number of Tamil IDPs who had slipped out in the course of those months 2008-April 2009. I had met Reddy in Delhi in 1995 in the home of an Indian academic and perhaps for this reason Reddy contacted me with a request for articles after I reached Colombo in mid-April 2009.
 Information from M. Sarvananthan, email on 21 November 2011.
 In a cable to his HQ Jacques de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations in Colombo, said that the Liberation Tigers “saw the civilian population as a ‘protective asset’ and kept its fighters embedded amongst [their fighters] …the objective [being] to keep the distinction between civilian and military assets blurred” (Colombo Telegraph 2013 via Wikileaks).
 Communications from Reddy in April/May 2009 supported by chats with Narendran Rajasingham in subsequent years and by the writings of moderate Tamils IDPs (Constantine, Rajasingham) who met fleeing citizens of Thamilīlam. This assessment of a split in Tamil perspectives is now supported by the voice of Tiger fighter Jayawadanee as well as the film-makers in their propaganda film The Last Phase (GSL 2013)
 The government of Sri Lanka tried to make a virtue out of necessity by declaring this coastal stretch a “No Fire Zone” on 11 February 2011 – in effect the “Third NFZ” delimited in the period 2009. In my reasoning the whole concept of “No Fire Zones” was flawed because the LTTE located weaponry therein (while the Sea Tigers operated out of the area). As a legal concept it does not apply to any evaluation of the war. Note also Ladduwahetty 2013 on this issue.
 In response to my inquiry [at the Narratives of War conference, Nov 2013] Professor Peter Stanley told me that he could not think of any other instance of this sort with reference to the periods 1789-2013 in the world order. This needs checking out of course.
 However, in the media interview on 26 March 2009 John Holmes indicated that the LTTE had been approached as well. But one can read resignation to the hopelessness of any agreement from the Tiger leaders in his words and demeanour. When he went on to say that the UN was pressing the government of Sri Lanka to agree to a “humanitarian pause,” it was followed by a veiled threat to withdraw UN aid for the detention centres for rescued Tamil IDPs that were being set up as he spoke. HERE, it is relevant to note that during the two short periods of ceasefire proclaimed unilaterally by the government– in late January 2009 and one in mid-April 2009 – absolutely no civilians escaped to the government side. In other words such moments assisted the LTTE in material ways.
 See http://jdsrilanka.blogspot.com/2009/08/sri-lanka-thirty-four-journalists-media.html & Roberts 2009b. Also note this comment from an Indian think tank: “….President Rajapaksa’s growing authoritarianism, his personalized vendettas against critics and opponents, and the progressive undermining of institutional governance” (SATP 2013).
 When the Editor of Groundviews asked the question “would killing 50,000 civilians to finish off the LTTE bring peace?” on 3 May 2009, the unequivocal answer from most inter-net responses (including Tamils) agreed that “collateral damage” was likely and that 50,000 civilian casualties was acceptable (see Groundviews 2013 and Roberts, Fire & Storm, 2011: x for details).
 See Schalk 2003; Hellmann-Rajanayagam 2005 and Roberts 2008 & 2010d.
 On reflection KP told Jeyaraj: “…looking back now I think the LTTE leadership was too late in trying for a ceasefire. Had we tried in mid-2008 when the fighting was on the west of the A-9 highway there was a good chance of working out an agreement” (Jeyaraj 2011: 30).
 See the testimonies of fleeing Tamils gathered by Reddy (2009c) and conveyed in Weerasekera 2013.
 My English was awry. I meant “simplistic” (but the sharper note embodied in the word “simpleton” is also arguable).