18th June 2000

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Ambitious tamils and victimised Sinhalese

By Kumbakarana

On 20 March 1948 All Ceylon Nationalist Tamils (ACNT) held its meeting in Jaffna. participating were moderate Tamils, Handy Perimpanyagam, lawyer Sivasubramaniam, K Nesiah, A.E.Thamber, C. Thanabla-singham, A.C.Kanagasingham. Their position - Tamils should live anywhere in the island and not in a separate Tamil state. 

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) mainly Ponnambalam and Chelvanayakam drowned differences to unite against this anti- Eelam, anti-Federal force, resorting to thuggery to disperse the meeting. Chelvanayakam's violent tendencies were further exposed after the defeat suffered by him in the 1952 elections. He initiated the movement "Poliyapadeyi" (Way of the Tiger) with his like minded partner Vanniyasingham laying the foundation for the cycle of violence later to envelope Jaffna. 

The 1961 campaign for a separate Tamil state and the murder of Ullahanthan in 1972 for not supporting their campaign amply demonstrated this violent tendency. 

By 1981 Tamil separatism had taken over the socio-political life of Jaffna, extended later to the 'Indian Tamil' colonies in the Wanni from Mallawi to Mullaitivu of TRRO and Gandhiyam fame, spreading next to Trincomalee and Batticaloa and from there to the estate sector, to Colombo and finally overseas. 

It is evident even to expatriates that socially, Tamils are becoming a morbidly violent group. For example in Canada Tamil groups have taken terror from the streets upto ministerial level, using it to intimidate newspapers (Manjari), even to boycott popular film stars critical of them. Even political giants like Muthuvel Karunanidhi are dancing to their tune perhaps in the face of a Rajiv Gandhi style fate. 

All this demonstrate that moderate Tamil parties and organisations have been brought to their knees by the terror of the Tamil Tigers. The responsibility for this sordid state of affairs should be squarely laid on the shoulders of the elitist ambitions of Tamil statesmen of yore and now. Anton Balasingham's statement that the sea of blood created by the Tigers is the making of their own elite leaders, is perhaps the closest he has ever been to uttering the truth. 

Tamil political parties are spy services while cultural events, media programmes are heavily controlled by the LTTE. 

The June 7 bomb was the 141st attack on the Sinhala people after July 1983, the 25th bomb in Colombo. In none of these tragic occasions have the Sinhalese lashed back. Today over 600,000 Tamils live in Colombo city and from Negombo to Wattala and Mattakuliya to Moratuwa, 90% are permanent residents. The Tamil population in Colombo in 1981 was 175,000 which decreased to 0.5 in 1983. Due to the ' Peace Talks' in 1989-90 and lack of direction of Government policies since 1995, migration to urban areas from conflict-ridden rural areas has been overwhelming. 

Tiger terror is swallowing up the entire body politic of Sri Lanka, destroying its social fabric. LTTE is relentlessly spreading its fascist ideology through its overseas business links, local traders, media and other institutions. They operate their arms, drugs, weapons trade from Karachi to Phuket using the port, airport and customs of Sri Lanka unhindered. And it is an open secret that the Sinhala and Muslim businesmen in Colombo too have fallen prey to Tiger blackmailing. 

Yet another powerful network links Tamils working in foreign missions, in over 3000 lodges/hotels in and around Colombo, in the passport office and abroad in providing false travel documents and acting as banker for those sending their wages home, charging fees for services rendered. The drugs, prostitution and gambling rings in the lodges/hotels are under their tight control. The increased Tamil student population in the unversities, computer institutes and technical institutes are another target of the LTTE to spread their ideology. 


Journalists face unbridled terror

Sri Lanka is going through a protracted social conflict over the ethnic issue, and many other factors are adding fuel to fire. Everybody wants to see a solution to the social conflict which is the main issue, but terrorism which started as a means to an end of the larger issue has become an end by itself for Prabakaran who knows no other means of governance.

This ruthless terrorism that has already taken a massive toll of the lives, properties and the country's finances, has now become an impediment to the resolution of the larger issue. Similarly more and more factors are adding more and more fuel to the fire. 

We have to first accept the fact that conflict is an inevitable aspect of life. People respond to conflict either by habit or by choice. It is possible to change habitual response and exercise intelligent choices. 

By responding to conflict creatively it is possible to bring about a constructive solution to a conflict. In the process there are bound to be dissenting views expressed, though aiming at the same goal. In the situation we are presently experiencing in Sri Lanka, unfortunately more confusion is added to the problem with inflammatory allegations being levelled against persons expressing dissenting views, and invoking violence against them, which again is terrorism.

What beats one's comprehension is the manner in which state controlled media, with impunity, is instigating blue murder against those who offer constructive criticism. With violence breeding violence, such conduct on the part of the State controlled media will surely steer the country towards an absolute state of anarchy. 

On the 16th of May 2000 the people heard the onslaught against Defence correspondent Iqbal Athas over Rupavahini, and describing him as a traitor to the country. An apology was tendered in that case after representations were made very diplomatically. 

But was there any deterrent action taken against the miscreants for such offensive conduct? Apparently not, and therein lies the connivance of state authorities. Emboldened by this connivance the state controlled Independent Television Net Work (ITN) on June 3rd read a statement containing serious allegations against four journalists who were named and labelled as traitors. 

This statement was also carried in the state controlled Sinhala weekly Silumina and the daily Dinamina and in the news broadcast of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) on June 4th and 5th. 

The allegations are of a very serious nature but in the absence of any official charges or even an investigation, this can be clearly seen as an insidious design calculated to instigate extremist elements against the lives of these journalists. 

This constitutes an offence punishable under Sections 108/109 of the penal code. The instigation also violates Section 26(e) of the emergency regulations No 1 of 2000 (Public Security Ordinance) which reads - ' any person who by words, whether spoken or written, or by signs or visible representations, or by conduct or by any other act promotes or fosters or attempts to promote or foster feelings of hatred or hostility, between different sections, classes or groups of the inhabitants of Sri Lanka shall be guilty of an offence and punished with rigorous imprisonment which shall extend to at least three months but shall not extend to more than twenty years and may also be liable to a fine'.

It will be seen that these are matters of grave importance where the Police, the Defence authorities and the Competent Authority, should activate themselves forthwith. Why they don't, is anybody's guess.

President Kumaratunga has gone on record exhorting the people to remain calm and to desist from inciting others etc.

But of what use is that, if state authorities connive in incitement of the most virulent form against their critics, debarring National security in the process? 

War against War Crimes Tribunal

NEW YORK The United States, the world's number one economic and military power, is fighting one of the few political battles it is sure to lose: a war against the creation of a permanent war crimes tribunal.

Faced with the prospect of losing, the US is gearing itself to hit back with a vengeance by punishing countries that will help make the court a reality.

Last week about 110 nations gathered at the UN for a three week long meeting which will add the final touches on rules of procedure and evidence for the proposed court. 

But at about the same time, a group of US lawmakers, led by Senators Jesse Helms and John Warner, have introduced legislation that will cut off all American military aid to any country ratifying the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The only exceptions would be the 15 countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and Israel, which since the 1979 Camp David Peace treaty with Egypt, has been receiving a hefty $1.8 billion (that's billion with a "b") in US military aid annually.

So far, 97 countries have signed the treaty, while 12 have ratified it. The ratifiers include Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, San Marino, Italy, Fiji, Ghana, Norway, Belize, Iceland, Tajikistan, Venezuela and France. 

The treaty remains open for signature until December this year. The court will come into legal force only after 60 ratifications.

The ICC, which will prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, was created following a conference in Rome in July 1998. 

The court is meant to prosecute the likes of Agusto Pinochet of Chile, Idi Amin of Uganda, Slobodan Milosevic of the former Yugoslavia, rebel leader Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone, and perhaps even Velupillai Prabhakaran (provided the justices can lay their hands on him.) 

The US was one of seven countries, including Iraq, Libya, Israel and China, that opposed the creation of the Court.

At the Rome conference, Sri Lanka abstained on the vote calling for the creation of the ICC. Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative John de Saram said that although Sri Lanka attached great importance to the ICC, it was concerned that the statute creating the court moves into areas of international law that are still "unchartered and unclear."

"We speak in particular of the extension of the jurisdiction of the ICC to areas of national territorial jurisdiction, without national jurisdiction consent, and that it does so, on some aspects that are of great importance to States, in a manner that is inconsistent with the generally established international law of treaties," he told the Rome conference.

Even in the unlikely event that Sri Lanka eventually signs and ratifies the treaty, it has little to lose because it receives only a paltry sum as US military aid.

The only security assistance the US provides Sri Lanka is under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme: $214,000 in 1998, $200,000 in 1999 and $225,000 in 2000. 

By American standards, that's peanuts compared with the staggering $44.9 billion in military aid the US provided Israel between 1950-1999. 

The only other key recipients of US military aid are Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the former Soviet Republics and Eastern European nations.

So far, the US administration has failed to persuade other UN member states to accept rules that would effectively exempt American soldiers from prosecution by the ICC.

The US has said that in exchange for this exemption it will provide the ICC with financial, diplomatic and technical support even if it does not sign and ratify the treaty.

The new threat against ratifiers of the treaty, however, is coming from Congressmen and legislators.

"The US Congress should not be engaged in scare tactics," says Richard Dicker of the New York based Human Rights Watch.

"The (proposed) legislation will not stop the international criminal court. But it does put a very ugly face on US diplomacy," Dicker said. "It shows that the US is the biggest obstacle in this important advance in the protection of human rights." 

The proposed US legislation would also require that American personnel be granted immunity from the court before participating in any UN peacekeeping operations.

"We cannot send our service people into harm's way unless we provide immunity from a worldwide tribunal like this," Senator Warner said last week.

The ICC is expected to be located in the Hague, capital of the Netherlands, which is also home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Last week, France became the 12th country globally, and the fourth European state, to complete the process or ratification. It is also the first veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council to ratify the treaty. The Council's other four permanent members are the US, Britain, China and Russia.

William Pace of the NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court, said the ratification by France reflects the extraordinary momentum that exists throughout the world in support of the ICC.

"Along with the US, France was critical of the ICC State during the Rome conference. But unlike the US, by the end of the Rome conference, France was convinced that the ICC statute provided satisfactory safeguards," he added.

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