ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 19D
Posted on October 20th, 2021

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The government of Sri Lanka     defeated the LTTE and declared victory on 19. May 2009.  The military victory in the final war was total, said analysts. However, Sri Lanka did not follow through after the victory. The government did not declare the Eelam war as a civil war and it did not take steps to bring the north and east firmly into the mainstream. Instead it backtracked.

Mahinda Rajapaksa,   President of Sri Lanka made three mistakes, one after the other, soon after winning the war. Firstly he allowed Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General   to come into Sri Lanka to inspect the Eelam victory. Ban Ki Moon had no business coming here and inspecting the Eelam war. He did not have the authority to do so. The UN Secretary-General cannot interfere in internal matters of member states.

The UN Charter describes the Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the Organization, who shall act in that capacity and perform such other functions as are entrusted to them by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.

That is not all.  Article 100 of the UN Charter    says that in the performance of their duties the Secretary-General shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization.

Ban Ki-moon, ignored all this and came to Sri Lanka to inspect the Eelam victory. He had come, it appears, at the invitation of the President. He arrived in Sri Lanka on 23 May: Critics said he came for the sole purpose of holding Sri Lanka accountable for the military strategies used during the final phase of the armed conflict,  to kick start the ‘war crimes’ charge.  

He held talks with the President, Foreign Minister as well as other senior leaders of Sri Lanka.  He also consulted ‘other relevant stakeholders’, members of international humanitarian agencies and civil society.  He visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) sites at Vavuniya and flew over the site of the final conflict at Mullaitivu.

A joint statement was issued by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations at the conclusion of the visit. This is a very peculiar joint statement. It did not affirm the unity of Sri Lanka and the end of a secessionist  action. Instead, it supported Tamil separatism and even used Tamil separatist jargon.

The statement said that Sri Lanka had entered a new post-conflict beginning. This ‘new situation’ should be used for the long-term development of the north. The government must ensure relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation in the north.

Also the government must now start addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution. The government must begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in these ‘new circumstances ‘. There must be a national solution acceptable to all sections of people, concluded the statement.

The second mistake made by   President Mahinda Rajapaksa , was to set up a  commission to inquire into the  Eelam victory. This implied that the government was at fault in fighting Eelam. Mahinda Rajapaksa   set up in May 2010,  a commission called  Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation.  

The terms of inquiry  of this LLRC  were also very  peculiar.  They were slanted towards  Tamil separatism. They  actually   recognized the illegal Ceasefire Agreement, which  had created an unofficial Eelam . The Commission was asked to see what went wrong after that. The Commission was also asked to see how  a repeat performance of war could be avoided.

The terms of reference further   indicated that the government was prepared to make restitution to those affected by the war. Reconciliation was also included.  The terms of reference  are given below.

The Commission was asked   “To inquire and report on the following matters that may have taken place during the period between 21 February 2002 and 19 May 2009, namely:

  • The facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement operationalized on 21 February 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to the 19th of May, 2009.
  • The lessons we would learn from those events and their attendant concern, in order to ensure that there will be no recurrence;
  • The methodology whereby restitution to any person affected by those events or their dependants or their heirs, can be affected;
  • The institutional administrative and legislative measured which need to be taken in order or prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and the reconciliation among all communities,

The LLRC rose to the occasion and  said that Tamils had to be provided with a political solution. The LLRC recommended,  power sharing at center, devolution  and Reconciliation. In the north it recommended demilitarization and  vacation of all private and public land occupied by the security forces.

The LLRC said, “The process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledgement of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society, of both Sinhala and Tamil communities. The conflict could have been avoided had the southern political leaders of the two main political parties acted in the national interest and  offered an acceptable solution to the Tamil people  Tamil Separatist Movement welcomed the LLRC report.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s third mistake was that instead of taking  strong action in the north, the government bent over backwards to appease the Tamils  there. President Mahinda Rajapaksa went to Kilinochchi, spoke in Tamil and told the people there that his government will rebuild all that was destroyed, and will strive to provide everything they need. (Daily News 17.6.13 p 1) The government  , it appears, took the position that  the government  was to blame for all the damage.

There will be a special census on human and property damage cause by terrorism through the past three decades,  President  said.  This survey will cover the scale and circumstance of death and injury to civilians and also to property during the period 1982-2009, that means the  full period of conflict.

The media reported in 2013 that the government had set aside the colossal sum of USD 1350 million for infrastructure development in Northern Province, for  railways, electricity, highways, bridges, water supply and sanitation.    85% of the foreign   loans are  to be spent on developing the north.

The main emphasis was on roads and bridges. The government has spent 10 billion on development of infrastructure in north to replace the damage done by the LTTE, reported the media in 2013.  In Vavuniya all disconnected, damaged and dilapidated highways and roads including rural roads have been renovated and rehabilitated.

11 large bridges were completed. The  A9 highway, Batticaloa-Trincomalee highway, Vavuniya  Horowopotana, Mannar and Medawachchiya were improved. A bridge connecting  Sangupiddy in Kilinochchi District to Karaitivu in Jaffna District was built. Before this bridge the only land route to Jaffna was  on A9 via Elephant Pass causeway. The bridge is part of the A32 Jaffna-Mannar highway.

Kilinochchi was developed.   The media announced in 2013 that over 8 million has been allocated to Kilinochchi. This allocation was described as a ‘staggering allocation, unprecedented at district level.’

The government said that 26,730 new houses were planned  for Kilinochchi. The government will provide 18,699 of them.  Also, the government would repair 4119 of the 6349 houses that need to be repaired.  The balance will be done later. Nearly 15,000 wells were cleaned or renovated.

A substantial sum of money was spent on restoring the health services that had been paralyzed. Major hospitals were renovated and provided with additional facilities.  Tellippalai base hospital was renovated to the cost of Rs 10 million. Kilinochchi roads were improved.

Thanks to this weak, apologistic approach of the government,  the Tamil Separatist Movement  revived and  started  the story that the Tamil population in north was an innocent group battered  by the government for no reason. They started to speak of the northern population as ‘victims.’  These ‘victims’ were not victims at all, they were complicit. They had helped the war, they supported the LTTE .

The work done in the north by the government  was heavily criticized. Some of it was not welcome at all. The new  roads and bridges broke the isolation of the north. It was now easier and quicker  to enter the north.

 Center for Policy Alternatives, headed by Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, criticized the 2013 census on human and property damages  due to the Eelam war. They said that the census caused a lot of distress ‘to northern victims of the conflict’.   

The CPA  said that this census was not correctly done. The methodology was deficient.  How could they record the entire families that died or went missing, who is to speak for them, there is no guarantee of completeness. It was a census which relied heavily on collective and subjective memory, from traumatized persons. Also the time period was too small.

The intimidation faced in the north today , the militarization,  the harassment and violence faced by families of ex-combatants could have prevented them from giving accurate information. One option given in the Census  is death by the military. They will not want to admit this. Households fear reprisals by the military if they say that the killing were due to the military.  So they say ‘don’t know’, continued CPA.

Also air strikes are not included in the questionnaire. The respondents should have been asked to state whether the deaths were by army, navy or air force. Air strikes are one of the ways in which the public was killed. The  government is trying to cover this up. There was an air strike on  9.7.1995 where 65 people were killed and 150 wounded  while taking refuge in St Peters church, Navaly, Jaffna, said CPA. ( Continued)

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