Enough already with the genocide talk
The accusations of genocide in Sri Lanka are getting annoying… and not in the usual ways. Anybody who takes the charge seriously betrays a highly annoying ignorance about the state of affairs between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Genocide is not happening in Sri Lanka. Plenty of other nasty things are; but genocide is not one of them.
The LTTE and its supporters in the international Tamil Diaspora they dominate would like us to slap the label of ‘genocide’ onto the Sri Lankan government. Ignore this campaign.
Forget the ‘black hat’ vs. ‘white hat’ morality play. In fact, forget this when looking at any civil war in any country. Where human beings are involved, nothing is ever simple.
It seems that everyone knows that in Sri Lanka, some 75% or so of the population are Sinhalese and therefore mostly Buddhist; some 15% are Tamil and mostly Hindu; and the rest are Muslim, Burghers, Malays, etc. But things still aren’t that simple.
The Tamils alone have numerous cleavages based on the antiquity of their community in Sri Lanka, their caste, the main local occupation; etc, etc. Moreover, in many rural communities, telling these Dravidian people apart is impossible, especially as intermarriage and all the other little human connections come into play.
Yet the LTTE claims to represent all Tamils on the Island; and murdered tens of thousands of them to underscore the point. They’ve killed Tamils from rival insurgent movements, from federalist parties, schoolteachers who wouldn’t let them recruit children from their classrooms, people who wouldn’t pay extorted ‘war taxes’, and many more.
When engaged in ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ (a favorite LTTE activity a few years back), it was hard to segregate Sinhalese from Tamils from Muslims when walloping machetes into panicked villagers in the middle of the night. Grenades tossed in crowded cellars aren’t discriminating either. Truck bombs rammed into an office tower and time bombs on crowded buses also couldn’t differentiate between Sinhalese and Tamils.
Many observers who pay close attention to the 35 year history of the LTTE believe that the Tigers have killed more Tamils than the government. It’s also true that the government has killed more Sinhalese than the Tamil Tigers ever managed: In the past 40 years two uprisings by Maoist Sinhalese were suppressed with extreme ruthlessness and tens of thousands died. Sri Lanka has been far more discriminating in fighting the Tamil Tigers.
The Sri Lankan government is certainly guilty of human rights abuses, and the current government’s behaviour can be very troubling. Yet genocide is one crime that they cannot be accused of; no matter how shrill the wailing from Tiger’s propaganda outlets.
Lately, those outlets have been shrill indeed. After 25 years of guerrilla warfare and 35 years of terrorism, the Tigers are finally being crushed. Whole regions of the country have been quiet for months, the Tiger air force has vanished, their artillery has been captured, and their founder and leader has apparently deserted his remaining forces.
But like Hitler or Saddam Hussein; Vellupillai Prabhakaran is not above sacrificing anybody his followers can compel into service. As the last guerrilla forces retreated into their final sanctuary, they dragged in every Tamil civilian they could find as a human shield.
Now, the Tigers are screaming that genocide is being perpetrated on their human shields… Well, this could be easily solved by laying down their arms and surrendering; but instead they seem determined to fight to the death.
The Tigers under siege are screaming for food and medical aid to be sent to their hostages. The Sri Lankan Army doesn’t share this misplaced compassion.
The Tigers are screaming for a cease-fire. Every ceasefire that occurred in the past 25 years was used as an opportunity to re-arm and re-fit, before the Tigers ended it with a new offensive. The Sri Lankan government can be forgiven for preferring surrender to a cease-fire.
Wars are terrible things, and it is best that they be ended – not be prolonged. The Sri Lankan Civil War, after over 70,000 dead and 25 years of ruin and expense, is finally coming to an end. Let it end.
Canada should retract its call for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, and instead call on the Tigers to surrender. As for those people busy pressing the ‘genocide’ button; leave it alone. It won’t work if it keeps being misused.
(John C Thompson is the President of The Mackenzie Institute in Toronto Canada. The Institute, cited by several major Canadian newspapers as one of Canada’s leading research organizations, prides itself on its objective and independent forays into some of the most contentious issues of the day.
Its work often becomes a catalyst for informed debate and major change. He Directs its research into issues relating to domestic and international political instability and organized violence (e.g. terrorism, warfare, organized crime, conflict, causes of instability, political extremism, etc.) Former Intelligence Officer of the Canadian Army, Thompson was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration in 1989. He left the service as a Captain. John is a member of Civitas, the Queen’s York Rangers Regimental Council, the Royal Canadian Military Institute – and its pistol club, Fair Vote Canada, the International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association)