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16th May 1999

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Where suffering is fashionable

By Kumbakarna

The suffering inflicted on women and children due to the ongoing conflict has become a fashionable topic at present. From a statement released recently to the media, it appears that this propaganda exercise involves female singers, actresses and some women from the universities, among others.

This tale of woe includes several interesting facets.

First, the assertion is made that the "war" is being waged by men, for the benefit of men, but that it is the women and children who suffer. The "War" is presented as a male chauvinist conspiracy against women, and should apparently be opposed on those grounds. Standard feminism, so far, but later there is a subtle shift. We are told of the suffering endured by Tamil women and children, and how their 'human rights' have been denied and their self respect debased. We are now in the realm of Tamil racist propaganda, as dished out liberally in western countries.

Solutions are also presented. This suffering inflicted on women and children can be ended, we are told, if the government halts the military campaign and withdraws the troops. Now where have we heard this before, we wonder, until we realise that it is the key LTTE demand as a pre-condition for 'peace talks." Pure coincidence, of course. But just in case the point is lost on us, we are told that the government and the LTTE must hold 'peace talks' again.

What is the reality that lies behind the photographs of sorrowing Tamil women and children which now appear frequently in the newspapers?

About 70% of the LTTE's fighting cadres now consist of women, and children of both sexes between the ages of 9 and 18. Those who carry out suicide attacks against civilians in the south, which is one of the more distinctive features of the LTTE's campaign, are drawn from among these Tamil women and children. No amount of lyrical story-telling can alter the fact that, far from being merely innocent victims, much of the terrorist campaign is actually being waged by women and children.

How did the LTTE descend to this level of barbarism?

Although racially-based Tamil political parties such as the Tamil Peoples' Council (set up in 1921 by Ponnambalam Arunachalam) and the All-Ceylon Tamil Congress (set up in 1944 by G.G. Ponnambalam) existed in the past, none of these progress beyond the Tamil upper-class elite. That was achieved by the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi, which was set up in 1949 by Chelvanayakam, Vanniasingham and Naganathan. This name translates as 'Lanka Tamil State Party,' but its official name in English was 'Federal Party', so as to deceive non-Tamils into believing that it was asking for a federal state rather than a separate Tamil state. Chelvanayakam's rabidly racist message was fed to the Tamil people in the wake of the humiliating defeat he suffered at the 1952 general elections. Any uprising or insurgency has the youthful segment of the population as its foundation. This segment is identified as those in the age group of 16-24. In a fascinating study carried out some time ago, demographers have found that a certain 'critical mass' is reached when this group reaches 20% of the total population, leading to unrest in one form or another. This is significant in the light of subsequent events.

In 1960, the 16-24 age group made 17% of the total Tamil population. By 1965 it was 18%, and it reached the explosive 'critical mass' of 20% in 1975. The quantum leap in Tamil militancy that took place thereafter needs no description.

However, from 1983 onwards, Tamil society was engulfed in turmoil. This had a direct impact on population growth, with the result that at present the 16-24 age group constitutes only about 17% of the total Tamil population. Along with the capture of the main centres of population by the security forces, this has led to the LTTE facing an acute shortage of manpower. It is ironical that, while there is an ample supply of young Tamil men to stage colourful demonstrations and protest marches in foreign cities, the number available for fighting in the Wanni is dwindling.

Faced with this situation, the LTTE has been compelled to draft in more and more women and children. It is a generally held belief that they are more amenable to discipline and the following of orders than men, particularly when drafted in against their will. The LTTE are probably gambling on this as well.

However, the most recent developments would seem to indicate that things are not going exactly according to plan. The 'cyanide culture' and the 'suicide bomber' image that the LTTE has so proudly cultivated up to now is beginning to show some cracks. In 1993-1998, 758 LTTE cardres surrendered to the security forces. Of these, 85% were women and children. If the surrendering trend catches on among the girlie brigade and the baby brigade, the LTTE may find it rather hard to carry on.

Which is probably why the various 'peace' parties are now making a last ditch effort to stop the military campaign, and prevent the LTTE being defeated.

inside the glass house:

Israel blatantly exercises proxy veto in UN Security Council

By: thalif deen at the united nations

NEW YORK— As the only international body empowered to declare war and peace, the Security Council is the most powerful organ in the United Nations.

But only five permanent members— the US, UK, France, Russia and China— are armed with veto powers giving them a singularly superior status in the UN political hierarchy.

Still, unbeknownst to many, there is a sixth UN member state outside the Council chambers, which for the last 50 years, has indirectly — and silently— exercised the veto through a proxy.

''Whenever the US vetoes a Security Council resolution critical of Israel,'' says one Arab diplomat, "we see the hidden hand of the Israelis.''

Clearly, he says, it is not wrong to argue that Israel, which has always been under a US political and military umbrella, is the sixth UN member state with a veto— and exercising power without responsibility.

Last week, Israel celebrated its 50th anniversary as a member of the United Nations having joined the world body on May 11 1949.

But even as the celebrations got underway, the Palestinians accused the Israelis of violating nearly every single UN resolution relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

''For five decades, Israel has violated and undermined resolution upon resolution of both the Security Council and the General Assembly,'' complained Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa of the Permanent Observer Mission to Palestine.

There is no other member state that has violated as many UN resolutions with impunity, said al-Kidwa.

Describing Israel as an ''occupying power,'' al-Kidwa said the Jewish state ''continues unabated with its illegal actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.''

Since May 1948, when Israel was created, six wars directly linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict have racked the Middle East involving the United Nations in five peacekeeping operations. The first, the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), still continues to operate in the troubled region.

Just after the Six-Day War in 1967, the Security Council, in one of its rare unanimous resolutions against Israel called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the conflict.

But Israel has continued to ignore that landmark UN resolution 242 which demanded its withdrawal from all of the occupied territories on the West Bank of the River Jordan and the Golan Heights in Syria.

In a statement released last week, the Observer Mission to Palestine said that, not only did Israel continue to prevent the establishment of an Arab state - as recommended by a resolution that partitioned Mandated Palestine - but it also continued to deny the right of Palestine refugees to return to their homes and properties or be compensated.

''A half-century has elapsed since Israel's admittance to the UN. It is high time that Israel fulfils the pledges and commitments made 50 years ago,'' it said.

More recently, in 1996, the General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Israel pay compensation for its attack on a military compound housing the UN peacekeeping force in Qana, south Lebanon. The aerial bombardment killed 106 women, children and elderly who had sought refuge under UN protection.

Addressing the UN's Administrative and Budgetary Committee Hassan Kassem Najem of Lebanon said last month that, despite the 1996 resolution, Israel has refused to pay compensation. The Assembly held Israel liable for compensation amounting to more than 1.2 million dollars.

''It is ironic and tragic that Israel is celebrating the 50th anniversary of joining the UN when it behaves as if it is not subject to international law or the resolutions of the Assembly or the Security Council,'' he said.

He also specifically referred to Security Council resolution 425 of 1978 which called for ''an unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Israel from south Lebanon.'' But none of these resolutions has been implemented.

Iraq came under rigid UN sanctions and heavy military attacks for invading a neighbour and trying to keep the spoils of war. But the same standards clearly do not apply to Israel.

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