I am a war criminal


By Fr J.C. Pieris

(Continued from Saturday)

We never secretly trained and armed rebels and terrorists of other countries as many of our powerful neighbours did. We never interfered in the internal affairs of other countries trying to destabilize them as the powerful countries of the world are constantly doing. We never were bullies. We never invaded or bombed another sovereign country. We only defended ourselves in our own country from the cruelest and vilest terrorist outfit in the world. Self defense has no rules. It was a matter of life or death. We had to safeguard the unitary status of the country which is the sine qua non for the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of our small, island nation. It was all out war but not between two legally constituted conventional armies. One was a terrorist organization that did not recognize or honour any international rule of war.

The peace talks in Thimpu, Phuket and all over the world came to naught. The LTTE talked while getting everything ready for the next massacre. The LTTE was totally unreliable and their barbaric trickery was notorious. The Sri Lanka armed forces had no option but to play the game, often one hand tied behind the back by the international rules of war and the pressure brought on by the self interest of powerful countries. Yet, the SL armed forces fought with superb strategy, intelligence and bravery ultimately winning the war that the international pundits said was unwinnable. Not only the president and the GOSL but the whole country, Sinhala, Muslim and even many Tamils, stood by the armed forces. Toynbee is right: Sri Lanka being a democratic country, we shared the responsibility for the war and whatever consequences that followed.

The Paranagama report says, "The LTTE was principally responsible for the loss of civilian life during the final phase of the armed conflict through their actions which included taking 300,000 to 330,000 civilian hostage, implementing a strategy of killing Tamil civilians to suit their military aims, using civilians as a strategic human buffer leading to considerable loss of civilian life, using hostages to dig trenches and build fortifications thereby exposing them to harm, sacrificing countless civilian hostages to keep the LTTE leadership in power, arming hostages and forcing them into the front line leading to the deaths of large numbers, forcing a great number of children to man the frontlines; deliberately preventing civilians, under their effective control, from fleeting to areas away from the fighting and executing civilian hostages for attempting to escape their captivity; shelling civilian hostages in order that the LTTE might assign those deaths to the SLA for media purposes to provoke international humanitarian intervention; placing their heavy weaponry amid civilians making it inevitable that there would be civilian casualties; killing civilians through the use of suicide bombers; placing mines and other explosive devices that resulted in civilian deaths; causing the deaths of civilians who drowned in an attempt to flee their LTTE captors; and adopting a practice whereby a significant number of its cadres fought in civilian clothes, thus blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians inevitably leading to civilian deaths."…."Commission is of the view that the principal reason for the loss of civilian life during the final phase of the war was the hostage taking and use of human shields by the LTTE."

The Paranagama report does not fully exonerate the SL armed forces. For, it was not a ping pong match and there is no gentlemen’s war. War is always ugly, dirty, tragic and unfair. If people are not aware of that cruel truth after two world wars, Auschwitz and Treblinka, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya and now Syria, either they are idiots or they are insane. The recent statement of the TNA leadership which has replaced the LTTE as the representatives of the Tamil people in the negotiation process shows that they have accepted that truth: "We also accept and undertake to carry out our responsibility to lead the Tamil people in reflecting on the past, and use this moment as a moment of introspection into our own community’s failures and the unspeakable crimes committed in our name, so as to create an enabling culture and atmosphere in which we could live with dignity and self-respect, as equal citizens of Sri Lanka."

The Tamil leadership certainly should take the responsibility for the civil war and the destruction it caused as Neville Ladduawahetti explains clearly in an article in The Island on the 04/12/15. "The compulsion for the Tamil community to be separate and distinct from the rest of the Sri Lankans goes way back beyond Vaddukoddai. However, it was only at Vaddukoddais in 1976 that they articulated it as a resolution to establish a separate state based on the right of self-determination. It was this resolution that called "upon the Tamil Nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw themselves fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of a sovereign state of TAMIL EELAM is reached". Therefore, the Tamil leadership that initiated the call "to flinch not till the goal of a sovereign state…was reached", should take full responsibility for the death and destruction they unleashed on the whole nation, and in particular on their own community."

The "unspeakable crimes" were committed not only against the innocent civilians belonging to all communities especially the Sinhala community but also against their own community destroying almost a generation of Tamil children by sending them to the front lines with guns. So says S.P. Huntington in his book ‘The clash of civilizations’ page 259: "…and the Tamil Tigers, it was reported, were "unique in their reliance on what amounts to a children’s army", recruiting "boys and girls as young as eleven", with those killed in fighting "not yet teenagers when they died, only a few older than eighteen." The Tigers, The Economist observed, were waging an "under-age war". Some LTTE ideologues dare talk about victimhood and martyrdom. The innocent children were certainly victims of the brutal LTTE but they were not martyred, they were simply tricked in to or forced in to being cannon fodder.

With positive and conciliatory attitudes shown by both sides we can handle our own process of post war mutual forgiveness and the journey towards justice, collaboration, development and peace. All of us, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher communities, we shall always protect and be proud of our beloved nation; the sovereign, independent, unitary state of Sri Lanka. We do not need any interference and guidance from outside. I wish to remind the countries that habitually poke their noses in to the garbage bins of other countries and accuse them of violating human rights and committing war crimes, the words of Jesus to the hypocrites who accused a poor woman of committing adultery. "Let the one without sin cast the first stone." The Jews of those days had the grace to feel ashamed and left the woman alone. But those who goad the UNHRC to punish us don’t have that grace; they are those who felt humiliated by the defeat of the Tigers who were their agents, their pets, their cats’ paws; they still want to run the world on the ancient Imperial Roman strategy of ‘divide and rule’. They are the war-mongers, arms merchants and rapacious exploiters of the non renewable resources of the Earth. They have blood on their hands and insatiable greed in their evil hearts. UNHRC or International Community or whoever you are – leave us alone.


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