Eelam war IV: Fighting Tigers on ‘MEDIA’ front (Part II)
Now, Lanka accused of setting up Nazi-type death camps

An attempt to liken welfare centres, in the northern Vavuniya District, run by the Sri Lankan government, to Nazi-era concentration camps could not have come at a worse time. It came close on the heels of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi Pillai and a group calling itself ‘Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka’ describing the Vavuniya facilities as ‘internment camps’.

The statement attributed to ‘Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka’ also referred to Germany under the then Nationalist Socialist regime, thereby equating the government of Sri Lanka to that of Nazi Germany. They recalled the systematic terror directed at the Communists, trade unionists and the Jews while discussing persecution of minorities and the consolidation of the majority community in Sri Lanka. Germany had an elaborate system to wipe out Jews with a range of options, including gas chambers and firing squads and nothing, I emphasise, nothing in the Sri Lankan context, had come even close to the German strategy. At least four to five million people fell victim to Nazi mass murder of European Jewry.

Their statement was among a plethora of statements issued shortly before UN Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe arrived in Colombo for a two-day visit. At the end of his visit, the former US Ambassador to Indonesia told a private television station (in an exclusive interview) that the Vavuniya camps should be opened and people given free access.

The likes of dissident SLFP MP Mangala Samaraweera and Nimalka Fernando, too, have called the Rajapaksa administration a ‘dictatorship’. Samaraweera launched a scathing attack on the government in Parliament on Tuesday (September 22). The bottom line is that in the absence of a cohesive government strategy to counter enemy propaganda, the country is being compared with Nazi Germany. The internet, too, is being used with devastating success to propagate canards.

Although the armed forces had wiped out the conventional military capability of the LTTE last May at a tremendous cost, thereby effectively neutralizing the threat of division of the country on ethnic lines, a section of the international community and its local agents had taken on the government. Now, that Sri Lanka is compared with Nazi Germany and accused of running concentration camps and internment facilities in the northern region, it would be pertinent to remind the so-called civil society activists of what really had happened in the Third Reich.

Their campaign, I believe is as grave as the LTTE military threat and could cause unprecedented political chaos. Unless the government countered the threat and exposed the strategy, Sri Lanka would be accused of a kind of ‘final solution’ (holocaust), the beastly plan implemented by the Nazis to exterminate European Jews, including that of Germany. It would not be long before the Sri Lankan Army was likened to the Waffen SS considered the protective guards of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) - or the Nazis.

The Channel 4 video canard that the Sri Lankan Army had executed captured LTTE cadres in the run up to the final battle on the Nanthikadal lagoon should be viewed in the context of a massive propaganda campaign to discredit the country abroad. The ordinary Sri Lankans would not be bothered by their propaganda though it would have far reaching consequences abroad, particularly in EU countries and the US. Even a perceived similarity between the situation in Sri Lanka and Nazi Germany could cause serious damage and isolate the country internationally. But nothing could be as bad as accusing Sri Lanka of running concentration camps or internment facilities knowing well that was not the case.

It must be emphasised that essentially German ‘death’ camps established in Eastern Europe as the German Army rapidly advanced in multiple directions, accommodated Jews and those who were considered hostile to the National Socialist regime. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, THEY WERE FORCED TO WORK AT GUN POINT TO STRENGTHEN THE GERMAN ECONOMY. As far as we know, neither Tamil civilians held at Vavuniya welfare centres nor LTTE terrorists held separately in detention camps are forced to work. Had anyone accused Sri Lanka of running concentration camps, then the World Food Programme (WFP) too, should be blamed for helping a country which operates so-called ‘concentration camps’. In their haste to destabilize the country, they had conveniently forgotten that the WFP and many other countries, including India, Germany, Japan, US, Australia and France had also provided assistance to Sri Lanka.

According to historians, people held in Nazi death camps had to carry out forced labour under such difficult conditions that their employment frequently was equivalent to extermination through labour. A section of the captives, including children, had been also subjected to medical experiments.

Foreign funded NGO gurus and their paymasters could not be unaware of the factual situation in Vavuniya though they continued to shed crocodile tears over what they called horrible conditions under which Tamils are being held. Unless, Sri Lanka countered enemy propaganda, the enemy would make a case against the country. A section of the international community and their agents (read recipients of vast sums of overseas funding) hell-bent on undermining Sri Lanka would relentlessly pursue their strategy. The forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections before April, 2010 would trigger an all out attack. The Opposition would assert that the only way to survive international sanctions was to cause a regime change, thereby denying the government the due credit of decimating the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon last May.

The invasion of Iraq on the false pretext of searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMM) by the US and its allies is a case in point. The invasion led by US and British forces in March 2003 had failed to find a single WMD though the war claimed the lives of at least 1.2 million people. The US which dubbed the offensive ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ is now preparing to quit the country after causing death and destruction on a massive scale. Had anyone bothered to peruse reports by international wire services aired and published in the months leading to the invasion many officials and experts were on record saying that Iraq had WMD and also the capability to produce them.

Some time ago, a section of the press accused the SLAF of carpet bombing though Sri Lanka never engaged in bombing a strategic area using large numbers of unguided bombs, often with a high proportion of incendiary bombs. The Indian press had repeatedly accused the SLN of attacks on fishermen and some time crossing the international maritime boundary. All this can be construed as part of a strategy to embarrass the country and undermine Sri Lanka’s resolve to meet the LTTE threat.

Now, that the LTTE had been wiped out and could no longer expect to challenge Sri Lanka militarily, their strategy would now revolve around the IDP issue. Accusing Sri Lanka of setting up concentration camps would be part of their overall strategy to discredit the country and depict the Sri Lankan forces as a bunch of criminals.

It is no secret that many NGO operatives represent more than one organisation and flood newspapers with press releases to coincide with visits by UN officials or international gatherings such as meetings of the Human Rights Committee in Geneva. Issuing damaging press statements at the behest of their donors and sponsors had become a lucrative business over the years with some of them making money at every turn. With the crucial elections just months away, the entire NGO/INGO circuit would go along with the so-called grand alliance to destabilize the country ahead of the polls. The same gang carried out a similar campaign at the last presidential election

And those in the media field who had been publicly applauded for their role in helping defeat the LTTE seem to be maintaining a deafening silence.

Part I appeared on August 12, 2009

Lankans among 4 sentenced for human smuggling

Four men have been sentenced to prison terms ranging up to 2 1/2 years for organizing a doomed sea voyage from St. Maarten that left 10 illegal migrants missing, officials said Tuesday, according to an AP report datelined Philipsburg, St. Maaten, carried by Boston.com.

The defendants — two Sri Lankans and two residents of St. Kitts who were convicted last week — were arrested earlier this year after a boat trying to transport migrants to the U.S. Virgin Islands capsized off the British Virgin Islands’ capital, Tortola.

The flimsy boat was packed with about 23 migrants, mostly Haitians, when it smashed into a reef in January. Three children, two women and five men could not be found and are presumed dead. A passing fishing boat rescued 13 migrants.

A Sri Lankan described as the ringleader, Sribaskaran Sivanantham, was sentenced Monday to 2 1/2 years in prison — the strictest punishment. Prosecutor Manon Ridderbeks had sought a seven-year sentence.

His lawyer, Thijs Leijsen, claimed Sivanantham organized the trafficking ring to help Tamils, an ethnic minority in Sri Lanka who suffered during a 26-year civil war that ended in May. But Judge Monique Keppels found that Sivanantham sought to make a profit, filling the boat with Haitian and Sri Lankan migrants.

A St. Kitts man also was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. Another defendant received a 13-month sentence, with five months suspended and two years of probation, and the fourth was sentenced to 6 months.

Thousands of Haitians take to the sea on flimsy boats each year, heading toward the United States or other Caribbean countries hoping to escape grinding poverty in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.


HRW targets Lanka over  IDP issue

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for more pressure on Sri Lanka regarding the IDP issue saying world leaders in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh should call on the Sri Lankan government to immediately release more than 260,000 displaced persons illegally held in government-run camps in Vavuniya.

Human Rights Watch said it was concerned about a lack of protection mechanisms in the camps and the secret, incommunicado detention – and possible enforced disappearance – of suspected combatants. Poor conditions, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care increases the risk of serious health problems during the coming monsoon season. Human Rights Watch also said that the authorities are not being open and honest with camp residents about when they may go home, keeping them in a state of uncertainty and anxiety.

Last week, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to European Union states outlining problems and urging governments to intervene forcefully with the Sri Lankan government.

"The civilians locked up in these detention camps have a right to liberty now, not when the government gets around to it," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "World leaders should support calls from the UN to restore full freedom of movement to these people, who already have suffered mightily from war and displacement."

Since March 2008, the Sri Lankan government has confined virtually everyone displaced by the war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to detention camps, depriving them of their liberty and freedom of movement in violation of international law. As of September 15, 2009, the government was holding 264,583 internally displaced persons in detention camps and hospitals, according to the UN, while fewer than 12,000 have been released or returned home.

Human Rights Watch said that recent government claims that a large number of camp residents had been released were false. A statement published on the website of the Ministry of Defence on September 12, claimed that the government released nearly 10,000 persons from the camps to their hometowns the previous day. However, it later emerged that they had been transferred to camps in their home districts, where they are undergoing further screening by the authorities. The Sri Lankan armed forces have indicated that the additional screening could take from several days to up to six months, even though each individual had already been registered and screened several times and cleared for release.

Sri Lanka has repeatedly promised to release the displaced persons from the camps as early as possible, including in a joint statement on May 23 by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But four months after the end of the fighting, there has been little progress.

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