Reconciliation via Cricket and Charity? The Political Ground is a Waterlogged Minefield

Michael Roberts

It is possible that Velupillai Pirapaharan remains a revered leader and symbol of the nationalist drive for Thamililam among some Tamils residing within the island f Sri Lanka today – even though they are circumspect in expressing such thoughts in public. Indeed, it is possible that some Tamils in the island worship him as a deity in the manner espoused in some quarters abroad by Tamils of the diaspora (see image below).

So, how does one measure the political reverberations of the well-meaning efforts towards reconciliation and the bridging of the Tamil-Sinhala divide delineated in several essays presented recently[1] in THUPPAHI?

 Kumar Sangakkara exhorting one of the teams at the Murali Harmony Cup

Note that FOG deployed such conceptions as “harmony” and “unity” in its cricketing measures towards the building of amity. So, it is possible for those who have deep friendships among Tamils in the island (whether in the north, east or elsewhere) to present this question to an individual at suitable ethnographic moments favouring honest answers: “when Sri Lanka faces India on the cricket field,” whom do you support?”

I did so once in mid-2016 during a one/one chat with a young Catholic Tamil (FK) in the Mannar region after we had got to know each other. His (sheepish) answer was “India” – a reply that I half-anticipated. I stress here that my intent was not – and is not – in line with the “Cricket Test proposed by the Tory politician Norman Tebbitt[2] in the early 1990s. Tebbit was sceptical about the degree of loyalty and depth of integration into British culture among West Indian and South Asian migrants. His goal was to use the query as a foundation for the denial of political rights.

My inquiry on the other hand was (and is) designed to explore ethnic identity and political commitment among Tamils residing in the island. It could be a tool deployed by researchers (especially non-Tamil ethnographers) who happen to be placed in an amenable ethnographic situation with Tamil acquaintances in a one-on-one situation where confidences may be forthcoming.

The problem with answers derived during such moments is the degree of weight one can extract from them. One swallow, as they say, does not a summer make. The anthropological depth derived from this method must necessarily be supplemented by more wide-ranging inquiries that include sociological surveys, group discussions eliciting reflections on past politics, observations of political rallies and the study of outpourings in the media in Tamil and English. In brief, a mix of the methods used by political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists is called for in exploring this sensitive and difficult topic.

Let me, tendentiously, tweak your feathers. In conjecture, I suggest, here, that all these efforts by Kushil, Murali, Sanga, Mahela, Botham, Nathan Sivagananathan and Sarinda Unamboowe have had limited impact in appeasing the Tamil populace. The weight of opinion wielded by the Tamil intelligentsia – those living in the Tamil regions, those in Colombo and those abroad – simply overwhelm the impact of such well-meaning endeavours.

I also consider it especially ironic that some of the staunchest Eelamists have been filthy rich members of the Tamil bourgeoisie living in Colombo during the 1970s-2010. The Wigneswaran we have witnessed in the years 2012-17 is not a sudden development. He represents a Tamil middle-class voice that has been entrenched in the urban order straddling Jaffna and Colombo for over nine decades. This strand of thinking moved from being “federalist in the Chelva mode”[3] to being “Eelamist in the Prabha-mode.” The assassinations of Amirthalingam on 13th July 1987 and Neelan Tiruchelvam on 29th July 1999 highlight the processes that led to a major shift in the stance of the politically active Tamils of Colombo.

Today, the power of these middle-class leaders located in Colombo and the north – power that is spearheaded by the media channels they control — simply drown out the efforts of the Schaffters, Kushils, Sangas and Muralitharans of our little beloved cricketing dispensation – especially when the circumstances are stained by the political infighting that bedevils the House of Parliament. In this my speculation Ken Dharmapala’s pessimistic prognosis is pointing in the right direction.[4]

I reside in Australia, so these thoughts are conjectural. This September 2017 I began exploring my pessimistic assessment from afar by presenting a MEMO to a few Sinhalese and Tamil friends who had familiarity with the north. I presented a set of searching questions for them to deploy among Tamil friends residing in the north; while prefacing this task with this note.

See Pic 160 in TPS. Pictorial, 2014, depicting Pirapāharan in deity form with offerings placed before him –26 November 2012.

  1. So, I want your thoughts on this specific issue with the concomitant question: is he still revered by many Tamils in the north and east and Colombo area?
  2. Is he becoming an avenging deity like Kali?”

One friend XY responded immediately and stressed that “One thing I can tell you is this – the Sri Lankan Tamils (most of them at least – and the ones who really suffered under the LTTE and the war) want to just get on with their lives – they may also want to know what happened to their family members – but their sentiments are far far different to the diaspora who in my personal view has a different approach to the whole matter.”

This is an important evaluation from a researcher who has visited the north in recent years and had considerable interaction with Tamil women in particular. But XY’s response also contained the note that the searching questions I had composed were highly confrontational: that is, in XY’s view, “these are questions that even if one has been friends with Tamils for very long they will not easily answer — there is a high level of fear of the other” (my emphasis).

The first note (inset above in purple) challenges my pessimistic guesswork about prevailing sentiments among the Tamils in the north. However, the second note indicates that there is great caution among the Tamil men and women in the street and that most of the Tamils in XY’s research world are likely to be part of the silent majority when it came to elections for the provincial council or central government. That is, I speculate — and I stress this is a speculation that is both deliberate and tendentious – that most of XY’s informants would fall into the category of “the silent majority.”

So, when push comes to shove at the political hustings or during moments of high octane visits from dignitaries such as UN officials, the political noise would be monopolised by the Tamil politicians, university activists, lawyers and media personnel. Witness the high-octane agitation in media and street led by kinfolk of missing Tamil personnel during David Cameron’s visit to the north In November 2013 – a line of agitation that was also supported by human rights (HR) activists from the Sinhalese and other ethnic groups located in the south,[5] with yet more voice added by HR organisations abroad.  These strands of pressure still prevail today and include US backed demands for war crimes tribunals which, in their turn, promote staunch Sri Lankan patriots and Sinhala extremists to engage in defensive moves laced with their own excesses.[6] The Sinha-Lē campaigners of recent years, the Sihala Rāvaya personnel and, above all, the Bodu Bala Sena exemplify this vociferous and deadly brand of Sinhala[7] chauvinism.

The genuine moral concerns of most HR advocates are not in doubt. They are pinpointing issues that concern quite a few Tamils resident in Sri Lanka: (a) issues of closure for relatives of missing persons, inclusive of those picked up by white vans in the past;[8] (b) issues relating to those Tamils held interminably in prison and (c) issues of land sequestered by the military forces of the government.[9]

In such a context cold statistical background figures are not irrelevant. How many Tamils are embraced by such concerns, and what proportion of the local Tamil population fall within this compass? Such a query is justified because the HR advocates abroad and locally have raised a furore about the death toll during the last stages of Eelam War IV and peddled mind-boggling statistical counts in affirmative voices[10] that only confirm their fundamental ignorance about battle theatre conditions[11] and the relationship between KIA and WIA;[12] while also marking their inattentiveness (wilful perhaps in some cases?) to the impossibility of distinguishing civilians from Tiger fighters and conscripts in circumstances when many of the latter did not wear uniforms.[13]

Tiger personnel in sarong s & shorts–se http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/kiawia-ratios-conjuring-with-the-dead-and-ignoring-the-wounded/

Ruki Fernando is an HR activist with a profound ethnographic knowledge of the circumstances of the Tamils in the north and east (note his web site). When he received my articles on the efforts of the Amity-Charity-Workers, he was good enough to respond (circa 23 September) and has since clarified his position in a Memorandum dated 1 October after I sought permission to quote him. I present an extract (his Note is in an Appendix).

“Cricket cuts across ethnic and various other divisions in Sri Lanka and it’s admirable that [Sanga, Mahela and others] have worked on reconciliation, using what they are undisputed champs with – bat and ball…. [However], in cricket, there are dangers [from] “taking the eye off the ball” and always “leaving the ball alone”, and that’s also very true for reconciliation. 

It seems that these] top cricketers have taken their eyes and ears off cries of mothers searching for disappeared children, detainees in prison for years without cases concluding, whole villages displaced for decades …. Genuine reconciliation can only come about by dealing with such problems. Ignoring or sweeping them under the carpet is to prolong or bring fresh conflict.” [14]

As this impassioned statement indicates, the HR lines of emphasis differ from those of the Amity-Charity-Workers. They also feed into the agitation of the Tamil extremists and Tamil political parties – in effect, albeit not necessarily in intent, serving as the latter’s allies because their location in space and humanist morality encourages them to see the Sinhala chauvinists and/or Sinhala-dominated governments as the chief culprits and tends to skip lightly over the culpability of the LTTE in setting up the scenario that meant a high civilian death toll.[15]

In the process, the moral agitation and vociferous thrusts of the several HR agencies assist and encourage the varied (and competing) Tamil extremists whose goals include the delegitimizing of the governments in Colombo.[16]

The Tamil chauvinist extremists — like the Sinhala extremists — are not united: they are in competition with each other. Such contests disable compromise and any steps towards the middle ground within the Sri Lankan political firmament because Extreme Force A fears that Extreme Group B will capture the terrain they work in. This tendency also prevails among the varied ranks of Sinhala chauvinist extremism. In this manner, the varied cohorts of Sinhala and Tamil extremism feed off each other, while yet competing for leadership of their defensive/aggressive causes.

So, to sum up: whatever reservations that XY’s informants have about vocal Tamil diasporic demands, it seems that they would not step out to voice their reservations at crunch points where push came to shove.

WHY? The Answer: their Tamilness reigns supreme at such moments. Or so I speculate.

I am pointing to deep groundings of ethnic identity – groundings also found among the Sinhala and Muslim peoples of Sri Lanka. Such cultural groundings are continually regenerated. Identifying them and the historical processes that sustain the groundings is the awesome and difficult task facing researchers.

So, here, I venture bold. Those addressing this issue today among the SL Tamils in the north, east and Colombo should introduce the figure of the talaivar of yesteryear, Velupillai Pirapāharan, into their inquiries. It is possible that Velupillai Pirapāharan remains a revered leader and symbol of the nationalist drive for Thamilīlam among some Tamils residing within the island – even though they are likely to be cautious in expressing such thoughts in public. Indeed, it is possible that some Tamils in the island worship him as a deity in the manner pursued in some quarters abroad by Tamils of the diaspora. Hence my focus on that picture of a benign Pirapāharan served with offerings.[17]

Postscript

When the first draft of this article was coined by 23 September 2017, I sent it to a few trusted personnel whom I deemed to possess a solid knowledge of the circumstances of the Tamil people living presently in Sri Lanka.  My Preface ran thus:

See Pic 160 in Tamil Person & State. Pictorial, 2014, depicting Pirapaharan in deity form with offerings placed before him –26 November 2012. …..

  1. So, I want your thoughts on this specific issue with the concomitant question: is he still respected and/or revered by many Tamils in the north and east and Colombo area?
  2. Is he becoming an avenging deity like Kali?

I am being deliberately tendentious because of my pessimistic assessment [speculative] of the results of the reconciliation work of good people.

  Rajan Hoole of the UTHR consortium[18] replied at once on the 24th September 2017:

“By its failure to solve the problem, the Govt. is aiding the building of Prabhakaran as a hero of mythical proportions. I think the people are ready for the truth, as they have known it better than others all these years. But the elite, the university types, build him up as a hero by observing major anniversaries in the Univ. and allow the people to think that this is the outlook of the wise and the good. It is patently hypocritical” (emphasis added).

This comment is reproduced here with his permission. It vindicates my conjectures, while not foreclosing debate on this issue.

This body of reasoning should not dissuade Kushil Gunasekera, Unamboowe, Sivagananathan, Sangakkara and others. Every little hand of mutual help yields some fruit. The issue, however, is HOW to device political bridges that nullify the self-interested activity of the extremists on all sides.

APPENDIX: MEMO from Ruki Fernando, 1 October 2017

I have watched, admired and enjoyed cricketers like Sanga and Murali, and also appreciate the humanitarian work they have been doing, attempts to develop cricket in different places, including the North. Cricket cuts across ethnic and various other divisions in Sri Lanka and it’s admirable that they have worked on reconciliation, using what they are undisputed champs – bat and ball.

Initiatives of reconciliation through sports, cultural, humanitarian activities are important. But we should also be wary of false “feel good” effect they may create. Which may lead to personal, immediate and historical issues related to reconciliation being swept under the carpet.  In cricket, there are dangers of “taking the eye off the ball” and always “leaving the ball alone”, and that’s also very true for reconciliation.

It seems that top cricketers have taken their eyes and ears off cries of mothers searching for disappeared children, detainees in prison for years without cases concluding, whole villages displaced for decades and trying go back to their traditional land, families of dead civilians trying to remember their war dead. These are just a few, there are many other such practical issues. Genuine reconciliation can only come about by dealing with such problems. Ignoring or sweeping them under the carpet is to prolong or bring fresh conflict.

Icons like Sanga and Murali standing with these persons symbolically, an occasional public statement in support of them, fund raising to support their livelihoods would have meant a lot to those affected. It would also contribute hugely to raising awareness and changing attitudes around the country.

Sanga and Murali are also admired for “playing straight” and as “gentleman” who respected independent umpires – both on field and 3rd umpires. These are values they could advocate for in broader society, as Sri Lanka struggles to deal with issues like corruption, impunity and accountability.

Such interventions may require far less energy, time, money than other initiatives they are doing and compliment what they are already doing. It can also cut across all communities. It doesn’t require much expertise, but taking principled and humane positions and possibly some courage.

Given the popularity and following they have, the ability to raise huge funds, the relative safety they have (Highly unlikely they would be arrested or white vanned) I feel they can easily take on some of the very personal and structural issues that’s at the heart of reconciliation. If they do, they could become top promoters and ambassadors of reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

*** ***

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Hoole, Rajan 2001 Sri Lanka: the Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence and Murder (2University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)

Mango 2014 “Sri Lanka’s War In Its Last Phase: Where WIA Figures Defeat The Gross KIA Estimates,” 14 February 2014,https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankas-war-in-its-last-phase-where-wia-figures-defeat-the-gross-kia-estimates/

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Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014,https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/11702/

Peiris, Gerald 2017 “Alleged Land Grabbing’ in the North by the Security Forces,” 26 June 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/alleged-land-grabbing-by-the-security-forces-in-sri-lanka/ …. due to appear in print in GH Peiris, Sri Lanka: Land Policy for Sustainable Development, Boralesgamuwa, Visiduna Publishers.

Roberts, Michael 1996 “Teaching lessons, removing evil: strands of moral puritanism in Sinhala nationalist practice,” South Asia, Special Issue, XIX: 205-20.

Roberts, Michael 2012 Victor Rajakulendran’s Tirade at the Exposure of Pirapaharan’s Admiration for Hitler,” 20 February 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/victor-rajakulendrans-tirade-at-the-exposure-of-pirapaharans-admiration-for-hitler/

Roberts, Michael 2013 “A Missing Person in Sri Lanka: Heartfelt Issues & Ground Realities,” 28 March 2013, http://groundviews.org/2013/03/28/a-missing-person-in-sri-lanka-heartfelt-issues-ground-realities/?doing_wp_cron=1364438547.7250208854675292968750.

Roberts, Michael 2013 “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-11221

Roberts, M. 2013 “Estimates of the Tamil Civilian Death Toll during the Last Phase of Eelam War IV in 2009: Appendix I for ‘BBC Blind’,” 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

Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/

Roberts, Michael 2014Ideological Cancers in the Sinhala Universe: Roadblocks in the Path of Reconciliation,” 10 May 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/05/10/ideological-cancers-within-the-sinhala-universe-roadblocks-in-the-path-of-reconciliation/

Michael Roberts 2014  “The War in Sri Lanka and Post-War Propaganda,” 18 November 2014,  https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/the-war-in-sri-lanka-and-propaganda-debates/

Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/

Roberts, Michael 2014Ideological Cancers in the Sinhala Universe: Roadblocks in the Path of Reconciliation,” 10 May 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/05/10/ideological-cancers-within-the-sinhala-universe-roadblocks-in-the-path-of-reconciliation/

Roberts, Michael 2015One-Eyed Zealousness: Extremist Australians For and Against the Tamil Cause in Lanka,” 1 October 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/one-eyed-zealousness-extremist-australians-for-and-against-the-tamil-cause-in-lanka/

Roberts, Michael 2016 Where Majoritarian Part subsumes the Whole: The Ideological Foundation of Sinhala Extremism,” 28 July 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/where-majoritarian-part-subsumes-the-whole-the-ideological-foundation-of-sinhala-extremism/

Roberts, Michael 2016Embittered Tamilness as a Problem for Reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” 3 August 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/08/03/embittered-tamilness-on-display-the-case-of-robert-perinpanayagam/

Roberts, Michael 2017 Anguish as Empowerment … and A Path to Retribution,” 22 March 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/?p=24595&preview=true

Roberts, Michael 2017 Professional mourners in Ceylon and Southern India,” 3 March 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/professional-mourners-in-ceylon-and-southern-india/

Roberts, Michael 2017 “Extremist Cricket Fans: Where Anguish spawns Violence,” 29 August 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/extremist-cricket-fans-where-anguish-spawns-violence/

Roberts, Michael 2017  “Ken Dharmapala’s Pessimistic Evaluation of the Sri Lankan Situation–2016 and Now,” 1 September 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/ken-dharmapalas-pessimistic-evaluation-of-the-sri-lankan-situation-“2016-and-now/

Roberts, Michael 2017  “Cricketing Outreach: Building Amity among Lanka’s Ethnic Groups?” 19 September 2017,  https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/cricketing-outreach-building-amity-among-lankas-ethnic-groups/

Russell, Jane 1982 Communal Politics under the Donoughmore Constitution, 1931-1947, Colombo, Tisara Prakasakayo.

[Sangakkara] 2017Kumar Sangakkara’s Reconciliatory Outreach across the Ethnic Divide: A Bibliography,” 15 September 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/kumar-sangakkaras-reconciliatory-outreach-across-the-ethnic-divide-a-bibliography/

Sooriasegaram, Mylvaganam 2015 “Vigneswaran’s Fundamentalism and Present Political Manooeuvres spell Danger for Us Tamils,” 30 December 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/vigneswarans-fundamentalism-and-present-political-manoeuvres-spell-danger-for-us-tamils/

Spittel, Gloria 2010 “Keeping the Cause Alive: The Post-LTTE Tamil Eelam Support Network,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/keeping-the-cause-alive-the-post-ltte-tamileelam-support-network/

UTHR 2009a A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Meaning, Special Report No. 32. http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm

UTHR 2009b 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.

Waduge, Shenali 2015 “Framing bogus War Crime charges: WHO are the ‘civilians’ who died in Sri Lanka’s Final War?”, 22 April 2015, http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2015/04/22/framing-bogus-war-crime-charges-who-are-the-civilians-who-died-in-sri-lankas-final-war/

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 FOOTNOTES

[1] See Sangakkara 2017 and Roberts, “Cricketing Outreach,” 2017.

[2] See Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_test; John Carvel 2004; and https://www.facinghistory.org/civic-dilemmas/cricket-test

[3] I am referring here to SJV Chelvanayakam, leader of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi or Tamil Freedom Party formed in 1949. See Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, 1949, pp. 271ff. for its manifesto. The political claims espoused by the ITAK were based on the maximisation of their historical political claims in a manner that involved the dishonest manipulation of history; while also attempting (unsuccessfully)  to maximise their demographic clout b encompassing the Tamil-speaking Muslims.

[4] See Roberts,  “Ken Dharmapala’s Pessimistic Evaluation of the Sri Lankan Situation–2016 and Now,” 1 September 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/ken-dharmapalas-pessimistic-evaluation-of-the-sri-lankan-situation-2016-and-now/,

[5] See Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, 2014, pp. 19ff.

[6] For instance, see protests against the UNHCR head Prince Zeid’s visit to Sri Lanka — www.dailymirror.lk/105082/Protest-against-UNHR-Chief-visit#sthash.XkLlnXV4.dpuf. For background to this event, see Jayatilleka 2015. Note also Waduge 2015 and Roberts  Where Majoritarian Part subsumes the Whole: The Ideological Foundation of Sinhala Extremism,” 2016,

[7] Quite deliberately I do not use the term “Snhala Buddhist” – to mark the likelihood that a few Sinhala Christians are among this mob.

[8] See Fernando 2015 and Watchdog 2012. Cf. Roberts, “A Missing Person in Sri Lanka: Heartfelt Issues & Ground Realities,” 28 March 2013, http://groundviews.org/2013/03/28/a-missing-person-in-sri-lanka-heartfelt-issues-ground-realities/?doing_wp_cron=1364438547.7250208854675292968750

[9] See Bhavani Fonseka 2016, Fonseka & Raheem 2011 and trawl through Ruki Fernando’s web site at www.rukiiiii.wordpress.com. Cf. Peiris 2017.

[10] The tentative figure of 40,000 presented by the UN Panel of Experts has since been converted into a definitive count by media outlet as swell as ‘learned’ political scientists. The figure has then been expanded to even greater scales by high-profile personnel – such as Charles Petrie, Frances Harrison and Yasmin Sooka. On the slipshod methodology of the UNPoE, see Marga 2011.

[11] One layman who transcended the limitations of bourgeois drawing room background and revealed incisive readings of the death toll issue is the late Rajasingham Narendran – see Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/11702/. Narendran also insisted that it was impossible to distinguish civilians from LTTE fighters & conscripts in any count.

[12] KIA = killed in action; while WIA = wounded inaction. In virtually all modern wars the WIA outnumber KIA by anything between two-to-one to 15 to one. See Mango 2014 and any statistical picture of USA casualties in the Vietnam War or Korean War. One authority is Coupland, R. M and D. Meddings 1999.

[13] My considered evaluations of these issues can be found in several publications: see Roberts, “Estimates of the Tamil Civilian Death Toll during the Last Phase of Eelam War IV in 2009: Appendix I for ‘BBC Blind’,” 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 as well as articles in Tamil Person and State; Essays,  2014.

[14] Email note dated 1 October 2017 – presented in full in the Appendix to this essay.

[15] I have consistently argued that from mid-2008 the LTTE saw the writing on the wall and devised a strategy to assist their cause: by building up a picture of “an impending humanitarian catastrophe” so as to draw (A) the HR agencies and (B) the Western governments led by Norway and (C) the powerful western media networks into interventionist pressures that would save the LTTE as an entity. In this Machiavellian scheme, the Tamil civilians were pawns –not merely “hostages,” but a central pillar in their defensive system … just so many sand bags. I have consistently argued this point since my article on “Calamity” appeared in Groundviews in April 2014. See also Roberts, “BBC Blind,” 2013 and Roberts, “The War in Sri Lanka and Post-War Propaganda,” 2014. This set of contentions has been as consistently by-passed in virtually all the commentary on the war by HR advocates (e. g. Weiss, the Australian Greens) and a whole corpus of scholars writing on the war and its death toll.

The thrust of my analysis is as simple as confrontational: however well-intentioned, the intervention of all these agencies in the period November 2008-May 2009, that is, their political actions, rendered them into parties within the conflict acting as allies of the LTTE. This necessarily blights their subsequent overviews of the last stages of the war. Also note my 2013 essay: “Wikileak Disclosures of Secret US Despatches on the Last Phase of Eelam War IV in 2009: Appendix III for ‘BBC Blind’,” 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/#more-11239

[16] For illustrations, see the web site maintained by Ruki Fernando at www.rukiiiii.wordpress.com and the publications of the Law & Society Trust — http://lawandsocietytrust.org/publications.html.

[17] This photograph is one which a radical Tamil friend of moderate political leanings in Sydney forwarded to me.

[18] Rajan Hoole is an University Lecturer of Mathematics who was amongst three hundred academics who, in 1988, formed the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) to document and report the increasing number of human rights violations in Sri Lanka’s civil war. With Rajani Thiranagama, Sritharan and a few others, he was a key hand behind The Broken Palmyrah (1988). Undeterred by the assassination of Thiranagama by the LTTE, he went underground and was a central figure behind the famous set of UTHR memoranda. See especially The Arrogance of Power (2001). Hoole is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna‘s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

 

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