Feature Article

Tamils should assess main adversary: Jude Lal

[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 September 2015, 05:47 GMT]
Colombo's LLRC was used by Washington as the basis for sponsoring the three UN resolutions on Sri Lanka in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Through sponsoring resolutions in the UNHRC, the USA has thrown away UN’s own Expert Panel Report as well as its Internal Review Panel Report, which pointed towards war crimes and crimes against humanity, says Professor Jude Lal in his second part of the interview to TamilNet. “In fact, it is the Expert Panel Report that recommended an international investigation. What has happened to these reports and their recommendations,” he asks adding that the same path will be adopted through the upcoming OISL report and the proposed domestic war crime investigation. Tamil people will have to carefully assess, which of the powers that they want to accuse as the primary international protagonists of the genocide, the exiled Sinhala academic says.

“For the imperial powers the biggest value of the island is not its gems, beauty or ancient civilization, but its strategic location in the Indian Ocean,” Jude Lal says.

“Whoever gets hold of the island will immensely be able to use it as a foothold to control India as well as the broader South Asian region.”

The UK had a historical and structural relationship with the Sri Lankan state. It is they who created the unitary state structure.

It is this state structure that has become extremely important for the growing strategic interests of the US in the Indian Ocean, according to Jude Lal.

Following the recent regime change and behind the facade of the so-called good governance, ‘correct’ alignments have been built with the US and the UK in which Rajapaksa also occupies a place.

“As usual, China will also share power with the US and the UK,” Jude Lal adds.

“If the TNA has shown to the Tamil people during the election campaign that it is they who pushed forward a war crime investigation, what they have achieved is a domestic mechanism that legitimises the Sinhala supremacist state with the full support of the USA, the UK and India.”

“It is highly distressful to see how the mandate of the Tamil people continues to be suppressed with the support of the TNA,” the academic from the Trinity College, Dublin, states.

Jude Lal, who also represents the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL) played a crucial role in bringing forth the investigations on Sri Lanka by the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) held in Dublin in 2010 and in Bremen in 2014. The findings by the PPT concluded that the Sri Lankan State was guilty of genocide against the nation of Eezham Tamils. The PPT also held the USA and the UK to be complicit in the genocidal process in the island.

Full text of the second part of the interview with Professor Jude Lal follows:

TamilNet: After the regime change the move towards a domestic investigation as opposed to an international independent investigation has been pushed forward more vigorously. Why is such a vigorous push after the regime change?

Jude Lal: In fact, this push is not new. It has always been there.

Dr Jude Lal Fernando
The regime change is part of an agenda to stop the Tamil demand for an international independent investigation. Such a demand revitalises the Tamil resistance to the Sinhala supremacist state. The move towards a domestic mechanism is to wipe out such resistance.

It is the US, which heavily backed the war, which is pushing forward a domestic mechanism in further consolidating the unitary state.

The regime change in Sri Lanka did not take place as a reaction to the mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state.

The Sinhala political parties, who were contesting the elections, as I said earlier, not only made every effort to convince the Sinhala constituency that each one of them did more than the other to achieve the military victory.

They also took every possible step to accuse each other of betraying the security forces by referring to possible war crimes investigations. Crimes against humanity or genocide were never ever mentioned in these references.

In a television debate, the UNP’s Wijedasa Rajapaksa, the Minister for Justice pointed out how Rajapaksa regime promised Ban Ki Moon such an investigation when the latter arrived in the island immediately after the Mullivaikkal massacre.

In fact, the UNP candidate had brought to the debate the letters of correspondences between the Rajapaksa regime and the UN Secretary General to prove his point.

The Rajapaksa lobby accused the UNP for compromising with the demand for such an investigation.

In fact, in any of the correspondences between the Sri Lankan state, and the UN and other Western states there is no reference to or demand for an international independent investigation. The entire emphasis is on a domestic mechanism.

What kind of a domestic mechanism? We have already seen it through the LLRC. The LLRC was never mandated to probe into mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people in the last phase of the war. As I have reminded in another interview with the Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), it was mandated to probe into the betrayal of the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan state by the UNP regime by entering into a Ceasefire Agreement and a Peace Process with the LTTE in 2002. Its report justified the war against the Tamil people as a legitimate war.

It was this report that was used by the US as the basis for sponsoring the three UN resolutions on Sri Lanka in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

So much so, in sponsoring these resolutions, the UN’s own Expert Panel Report as well as its Internal Review Panel Report, which pointed towards war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been thrown away by the US.

The first report revealed that at least 40,000 were killed and the second one’s estimate reached 70,000.

In fact, it is the Expert Panel Report that recommended an international investigation. What has happened to these reports and their recommendations?

The voice of thousands of victims, genuine humanitarian and human rights concerns of some of those UN staff members and so many who gave evidence to them have been totally put a side in the US-sponsored UN resolutions.

The same path will be adopted through the upcoming UN report and the proposed domestic war crime investigation. Bear in mind that the Sinhala constituency did not give a mandate to any of the parties of the national unity government for such a domestic mechanism. All these parties, including the President gave an absolute guarantee to the Sinhalese that the rights of the Sinhala soldiers will be protected. It is under these conditions that the US and the Sri Lankan state are talking about a domestic mechanism.

The push towards a domestic mechanism is another move to legitimise and absolve the Sinhala supremacist state and bury its genocidal crimes against the Tamil people.

The regime change has been devised to implement this agenda whereby the large scale structural changes in the Tamil homeland will continue to be justified in the name of post-war development under good governance.

If the TNA has shown to the Tamil people during the election campaign that it is they who pushed forward a war crime investigation, what they have achieved is a domestic mechanism that legitimises the Sinhala supremacist state with the full support of the USA, the UK and India.

In that, the collective memory of the Tamil struggle is being erased whilst the collective political aspiration of the Tamil people will not be allowed to surface in a formidable way.

Roads will be built. Houses will be constructed. Name boards will be erected in all three languages. Sinhala supremacist national anthem will be sung in Tamil on thousands of known and unknown graveyards of Tamil people. All these will continue to happen whilst the TNA is holding the Opposition Leadership in the Parliament.

It is highly distressful to see how the mandate of the Tamil people continues to be suppressed with the support of the TNA.

TamilNet: Number of times you referred to the role of international actors? How crucial is this role? Could you elaborate on this point more?

Jude Lal: In fact, more than the internal political dynamics what is most crucial is the role of the international actors. Majority of Sinhalese, except the Sinhala polity, do not think so.

Many Tamils are aware of the role of the international actors. A majority of Sinhalese think that the international community is aiding the Tamils. What has happened and is happening is just the contrary.

There are clearly documented accounts about the construction of the Sinhala supremacist unitary state by the British colonial government for strategic reasons in controlling India, which led to the discrimination and oppression of the Tamils in the island.

What does this unitary state mean? For the imperial powers the biggest value of the island is not its gems, beauty or ancient civilization, but its strategic location in the Indian Ocean.

Whoever gets hold of the island will immensely be able to use it as a foothold to control India as well as the broader South Asian region. The Trincomalee harbour increased this strategic interest immensely.

For such strategic usability the island should remain as a single political unit under one central command. If there are separate political units, political stability will be weakened and it will not be possible to achieve the full strategic usability.

The island was brought under one centralised political authority by the British, not for administrative convenience, but because of this strategic interest.

The British could not trust the Tamils because of their geographical proximity to India as well as closeness to the many uprisings going on in India.

The numerically bigger group in the island, that is, the Sinhalese were made to believe that they own the entire island and that they are racially superior to the Tamils. This is why I say that the so-called Sri Lankan state is a Sinhala supremacist state.

A detailed account of this historical reality has been presented to the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka by the International Human Rights Association, which were held in Dublin and Bremen. This is readily available online for those who want to have a grasp of it.

Some want to trace back the roots of the oppression of Tamils to the so called post-independence era.

This is an utterly flawed depiction, which in a way absolves the main architects of the Sinhala supremacist state, the British. This depiction also generates false hopes amongst some Tamils that the British state would help secure Tamil rights going against the very state structure that British themselves created.

It is this state structure that has become extremely important for the growing strategic interests of the US in the Indian Ocean.

With the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq the need for consolidation of the unitary state in the island increased dramatically.

Furthermore, as the China’s sphere of economic influence spread towards South Asia, securing the Sri Lankan unitary state became a priority for the US/UK axis. India joined this move in as measure to contain China.

The only formidable obstacle to this strategy was the LTTE, who wanted the Indian Ocean region to be declared a peace zone not allowing it become a theatre of war.

The global powers could not achieve the full strategic usability of the island as long as the LTTE existed.

This was why the 2002 Peace Process was deliberately and the military, political, diplomatic, and economic support was given to the Sri Lankan state to wage a colossal war against the Tamil people.

You could find detailed accounts of this support in documentations presented to the Bremen Tribunal by the International Human Rights Association-Bremen. It was on the basis of these evidence that the 10 member panel of judges found the USA and the UK as complicit in the genocide against the Tamil people.

The case of India could not be investigated not because of lack of evidence, but because of technical reasons. Thirumurgan Gandhi and Umar Naina, who represented the May 17 Movement, painstakingly had pulled together a lot of evidence to show how complicit India is in aiding the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil people.

The Tribunal was overwhelmed with evidence and the time frame was not sufficient enough to process all these evidence. This is why the Tribunal had to postpone making deliberations on Indian complicity.

TamilNet: Do you think that China and the USA/UK/India are equally responsible for aiding the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil people?

Jude Lal: In the allocation of responsibility, we need to assess the degrees of involvement of these countries.

The UK had a historical and structural relationship with the Sri Lankan state. It is they who created the unitary state structure.

If you read the British journalist Phil Miller’s document on Britian’s Dirty War Against the Tamils 1979-2009, it is absolutely clear how the British government has been aiding the Sri Lankan state militarily to repress the Tamil militancy. Phil also has come out with another highly researched document called Exporting Police Death Squads: From Armagh to Trincomalee. This shows how the British government was involved in sharing counter-insurgency experts from Northern Ireland to Sri Lanka.

When we organised a meeting to share Phil’s work in Belfast recently, the Irish human rights and peace activists saw a huge similarity between the patterns of attacks on the Republican Movement and the Tamil struggle by the British state.

Tony Blair has concealed the truth about exporting of Police Death Squads from Britain to Sri Lanka in his talk about reconciliation at the Kadiragamar Memorial Lecture in Colombo.

The well-researched evidence provided to the Bremen Tribunal by Bashana Abyewardene, the former editor of the Sinhala newspaper Hiru, who is in exile demonstrates how the US government was directly involved in training the Sri Lankan security forces in counter-insurgency warfare.

Furthermore, it has been shown how politically and diplomatically the USA continued to reinforce the unitary state structure in opposing any kind of a negotiated political settlement with the LTTE that gives substantial amount of autonomy to the Tamil homeland. These evidences show that there have been and that there is a structural/military/political involvement of these powers with the Sri Lankan state and its execution of war.

In fact, India, joined hands with these powers after the Cold War. During the Cold War India, which was closer to the Mosow-axis, backed the Tamil national struggle, not as a principled position, but as a pragmatic move to contain the pro-US Colombo regime.

In my view, China was reacting to the unfavourable situation that would arise after the military defeat of the LTTE and in a rear-guard action, gave support to Rajapakse hoping to keep the Sri Lankan state temporarily out of US hands. But this only played straight into US/UK/India’s hands as it created the condition where they could dispose of the blood drenched Rajapaksa, when the time was right.

The Tamil people will have to carefully assess, which of the powers that they want to accuse as the primary international protagonists of the genocide.

TamilNet: Why was Rajapaksa then vilified by the Western powers that initially backed his regime in the war and went to the extent of supporting a regime change?

Jude Lal: I would simply say that had not China built close ties with the Rajapaksa regime this vilification would not have taken place. Rajapaksa himself, during the presidential election campaign, appealed to the Sinhala constituency signalling that the choice between him and Maithripala Sirisena is a choice between China and the USA respectively.

The main reason for the USA/UK to appear to raise human rights concerns about Sri Lanka is China’s growing sphere of influence in the country.

The mass atrocities committed against the Tamils were used in two ways by the USA/UK axis. One was to threaten Rajapaksa and persuade him to get back to the correct alignment whereby the Chinese axis is contained.

Secondly, to contain the growing Tamil and international outcry against the mass atrocities and thereby destroy Tamil collective resistance which continues to exist even after the LTTE is militarily defeated. Look at what has happened now? The regime has been changed and Rajapaksa’s party has joined the national unity government, while Rajapaksa occupying a front seat in the Parliament.

Some of the major Chinese projects such as Colombo Port City have come under strain, though not fully abandoned, not because of any environmental concerns raised by the civil society groups, but because of the US pressure.

The correct alignments have been built with the US and the UK in which Rajapaksa also occupies a place.

There was no genuine human rights agenda attached to the regime change at all, least to say about war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

With the regime change, the powers that have been orchestrating the war and were temporarily appeared to be out of the scene are back at stage in Colombo in full swing to sanctify the consensual regime that totally denies a mass atrocity against the Tamil people. This is the whole aim of the visits by John Kerry and Nisha Biswal.

As usual, China will also share power with the US and the UK.

TamilNet: But, some Tamils say that Rajapaksa managed to fool the West?

Jude Lal: No, I do not think so. The Sinhala ruling elite has not been so clever at all. They are not the choosers in the game who have the ability to command. They are not the one’s who decide. They were made by the colonial rule to be utterly dependent. They were the chosen elite by the US/UK axis to protect the Sinhala supremacist state.

Of course, they like to believe that they are the commanders of the game before the Sinhala constituency.

Rajapksa did not have confidence to win a war. This confidence was given to him by the US/UK axis.

As you know, the Wikileaks revealed how, when Rajapksa was shown satellite images of war by the US ambassador, he said ‘you know better than I do’. They did not fool each other at all.

It was Rajapaksa’s regime that signed the first ever and long delayed US-Sri Lanka military agreement in South Asia in 2007, the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement. Afghanistan signed such an agreement only in 2014. The first such agreement was with the British in 1947 on the eve of the so-called Independence in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa was never ever been anti-British or anti- American. Even though China’s sphere of influence in the island increased, Rajapaksa continued to encourage joint military training between the US and Sri Lankan security forces.

So where did things go wrong? As every Sinhala regime claimed that that they were the warriors, as in a relay race, Rajapaksa also claimed credit to the military victory.

However, he claimed it more than any other in Sri Lankan history and did so whilst China’s sphere of influence was increasing. This was not at all conducive for the US/UK axis to move to the next phase of consolidation of the unitary state.

What is this next phase? It is the phase of totally destroying the collective political aspirations of the Tamils. The LTTE is gone and now the attack is on the Tamil collective will to resist the state and their will to freedom. By deposing Rajapaksa from power the state has been given a decent look now. The state appears to be benevolent and this appearance is being sold to the Tamils as the solution. The truth is as long as the Tamil’s collective political aspiration that treats the north and east as their homeland exists the full usability of the island as a strategic asset is at stake. This is the most crucial international dimension that the Tamils need to bear in mind by not getting caught up by the façade of good governance.

TamilNet: There is an argument amongst some Tamil circles that we should not antagonise these powers as they are the ones, who have power to make a change and that they have been raising human rights concerns in the Sri Lanka. Do you agree?

Jude Lal: Absolutely not. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. That is, as long as we look up to these powers and as long as they are involved in any kind of mechanism that appears to be related to investigation of mass atrocities, they will make sure to justify the legitimacy of the Sri Lankans state to wage the war. They will not recognise the collective rights of the Tamils. They will reduce mass atrocities to isolated and individual violations of human rights against both Sinhalese and Tamils.

All these may appear to some Tamils, who have gone through an unimaginable collective trauma as promising. But this is only a sip of water given by the tormentor to his victim whilst the torturing continues in order to destroy the will to freedom.

After the LTTE has been militarily destroyed now, the agenda is to destroy the collective political will of the Tamil people. This is an on-going genocide.

TamilNet: In your assessment, what kind of independent international investigation would help the Tamil people to secure justice?

Jude Lal: It is true that a majority of Tamils as well as many international organisations want an independent international investigation. No body asked for a domestic investigation.

Bear in mind that such a mechanism is being enforced not only against the collective will of the Tamil people, but also against many human rights organisations in the world.

Callum Macrae, for example, is touring Latin American countries at the moment with the support of many human rights organisations in campaigning for an independent international investigation.

The US-sponsored UN agenda for a domestic mechanism is totally undemocratic in essence.

Such a move is morally indefensible, as it does not have the victims at the heart of the investigation. It goes against every sense of natural justice where the culprit, which is the Sri Lankan state is given the responsibility to investigate.

In this sense, I admire those who call for an independent international investigation.

However, they do not focus on the complicity of the international actors in the mass atrocities. Therefore their call for an independent international investigation not only becomes politically ineffective, but also helps the international actors to cover their complicity while continuing to aid the Sri Lankan state.

I do not mean to say that those involved in this campaign are not aware of the international complicity.

This is why the Bremen Tribunal unanimously recommended that in an independent international investigation those parties such as the US and UK should not be given any role to play. The same principle we apply in excluding the Sri Lankan state applies to the US and UK.

An international independent investigation has to be truly genuine, but not appear to be independent. This is important not only as a logical argument, but as an existential urgency because right at the moment there is an on-going genocide against the Tamil people. We need to stop that through a genuine international independent investigation.

This demand is extremely important not only in moral and legal perspectives, but also as a realist political stance.

The left leaning countries in Latin America for example would not want to support any investigation led by the USA and UK. This was the main reason for them to oppose the US- sponsored UN- resolutions on Sri Lanka and we know what these resolutions mean.

In an emerging multipolar world, it is important for us to re-orientate ourselves towards new liberating and peaceful alignments with those countries, who are at least less complicit in the crimes committed against the Tamil people.

As long as we look up to the perpetrators to be our saviours, we not only become politically ineffective in securing freedom, but also gradually loose our moral conscience, power to think and will to resist.

The whole Tamil struggle is aimed at regaining our humanity.

The Tamils still have that collective power which needs to be exercised in the political front creatively without falling into the traps that have been laid before them.


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