Daily Archives: May 5, 2006
So much for the ideal of the peaceful Buddhist state. Sri Lanka has now joined Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia as one of the most violent places on earth in the last seventy-five years.
The last time Sinnathurai Kandasamy saw his wife, Thiraviyam, was a little more than two weeks ago, when she left home for a hospital check-up in the east coast Sri Lankan town of Trincomalee.
Hours later Kandasamy found his wife dead in a mortuary. A bullet had blown her left cheek away. Her eye was missing. Gone too were her ear lobes and fingers — chopped off for the gold jewellery she adored.
The 59-year-old was a victim of the violence that swept through the town’s main market just more than a fortnight ago. It began with a bomb blast that the authorities blamed on the Tamil Tigers — a rebel group that wants a state for the country’s three million Tamils carved out of Sri Lanka, which is dominated by the majority Buddhist Sinhalese population.
What followed in Trincomalee, say its residents, was murderous retribution. They tell of how the town square filled with Sinhalese mobs armed with knives and pistols. The town’s Tamils say this was a premeditated killing spree. “The market is next to an army camp. There are armed police and soldiers there. Yet they just stood by. What had my wife done to deserve this?’’ asked Kandasamy, between tears.
There are tales of butchery and rape. Shops owned by Tamils were burnt. Later the Tamil Tigers slaughtered five Sinhalese farmers in retaliation.
The trouble, say Tamils, started last November when a statue of Buddha materialised overnight in the square, a provocative religious act for the mainly Hindu Tamils of the town. Local Sinhalese claim that after Tamils won control of the council, there were overt displays of support for “terrorists’’.
This reaction and, sometimes blatant, discrimination by the Sinhalese authorities has fed separatism among the local Tamils. “They are trying to provoke us into becoming terrorists,’’ said Murugaiah Anandan, the nephew of Kandasamy. “My aunt lay on the road for four hours. No one cares what happens to us. Why should we not join and fight?’’
Trincomalee’s centre is now deserted, save for the heavily armed Sri Lankan soldiers at every crossing. Along the main drag, the shops are either shuttered or charred wrecks.
Concentrated mostly in the north and east of this small island nation in the Indian Ocean, these spasms of destruction punctuate daily life. They are some way from the full-scale conflict that the country witnessed for two decades from 1983, which claimed 65 000 lives. But in parts of Sri Lanka today the scene is of daily assassinations, abductions and gunbattles between armed groups.
The Tigers remain a terrorist organisation in the eyes of the United States, Britain and India. The European Union has barred Tamil Tiger delegations from its territory after the assassination of Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, last August.
Officially the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a ceasefire agreement in 2002, but an undeclared war is being fought. Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times estimates that 600 people have been killed since November.
The string of tit-for-tat killings over the past few months culminated last week with a brief return to full-scale conflict when a pregnant Tamil Tiger suicide bomber tried to assassinate the country’s army chief. He escaped with his life. She died. By evening Sri Lanka’s air-force planes, supported by naval artillery, were pounding rebel positions near Trincomalee, sending thousands of people fleeing into the jungle for refuge.
Although the Sri Lankan military bombardment has stopped and the Tigers have said they will attend peace talks, it appears both the government and the rebels believe they have more to gain from continuing this shadow battle.
Sri Lankan soldiers shot dead five people in the northern town of Jaffna on the day the bombing stopped. The Tigers remain in control of much of the north-east, running a de facto government while ambushing security forces at will from remote jungle camps.
At the heart of the matter is the refusal by both sides to adhere to the peace agreement signed in February. The Tigers promised to abjure from violence and, in return, the government agreed to rein in “armed groups’’ operating in its territory — a reference to a new Tamil paramilitary outfit led by the breakaway Tamil Tiger commander Karuna. Neither has happened.
Five hours’ drive from Trincomalee is Batticaloa, a palm-fringed town that straddles a blue lagoon that has become the frontline of a brutish battle between government-backed Karuna fighters and battle-hardened Tigers.
Large red letters daubed on lampposts proclaim that Batticaloa is under the control of the TMVP, initials in Tamil that stand for Karuna’s Tamil People’s Liberation Party. The word on the street is that Karuna’s party is being built up as an alternative, more cooperative Tamil force capable of taking over administrative and police functions in the east of the country. Karuna’s troops are sheltered in the army’s barracks.
Batticaloa’s streets are now segregated into pro-Tiger and pro-Karuna fiefdoms. On the day The Guardian arrived in Batticaloa the Tigers killed 18 Karuna fighters, an act which was followed by the army spraying the town with bullets in hot pursuit of LTTE soldiers.
Mahinda Rajapakse (59), president of Sri Lanka. A former actor. A fiery leftwinger who allied with Sinhalese nationalists to win elections last November. His campaign rhetoric proposed nationalising parts of the economy and he rejected sharing power with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Lives in a heavily guarded palace in Colombo.
Velupillai Prabarahan (52), elusive leader of the Tamil Tigers and one of the world’s most ruthless guerrilla strategists. Has led a guerilla army of 15 000 fighters for 20 years in his pursuit of a Tamil homeland, Eelam. His cult of personality is such that captured fighters often bite on cyanide to avoid giving away his whereabouts under torture. Lives in the jungles of northern Sri Lanka.
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (42), aka Colonel Karuna. Until March 2004 the military commander of the Tamil Tigers. Left with 3 000 of his soldiers, from the east of Sri Lanka, saying they were laying down their lives in disproportionate numbers for the northern leadership. Now sheltered by his former enemy, the Sri Lankan army, to fight the LTTE. Thought to be in Malaysia. by ABN – Randeep Ramesh
UNITED NATIONS: With growing new support for an Asian as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations, there is a possibility of new candidates joining the race – perhaps from India, Indonesia, East Timor and maybe even Japan.
The 114-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the largest single political coalition at the United Nations, has joined the 54-member Asian Group and the 53-member African Group in declaring its public support for an Asian as the new chief administrative officer of the world body, come January 2007.
In a letter to NAM members, the current chair, Ambassador Hamidon Ali of Malaysia, said last week that "the Non-Aligned Movement at its meeting at the ambassadorial level has decided that the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, who will succeed Kofi Annan of Ghana, shall be selected from a state member of the Organisation (NAM) from the Asian region." The three declared Asian candidates so far are: former Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka; Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai; and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon.
Even though South Korea is part of the Asian Group at the United Nations, the NAM decision rules out support for the South Korean candidate because Seoul is not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Meanwhile, the election of the new Secretary-General may also be indirectly linked to an even more frantic race for another coveted prize at the United Nations: a permanent seat on the 15-member Security Council.
Currently, four countries – India, Japan, Germany and Brazil, known as the Group of Four – have been relentlessly knocking at the Security Council door for new permanent seats, five of which are now held by the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia.
But those four new seats seem so elusive – primarily because of the sharp division among the 191 member states – that the proposal for an expansion of the Security Council has hit a virtual dead-end.
What do you do when that prized permanent seat in the Security Council remains outside one’s grasp?
The two Asian contenders for that seat – namely India and Japan – may be looking for a seat elsewhere: a seat now held by the outgoing Secretary-General.
Publicly, the Japanese have said they are not interested in the job despite the fact that Asia’s regional claim to the job has been endorsed by three powerful groups at the United Nations.
Unless the veto-powered U.S. keeps pushing for an Eastern European, the next Secretary-General should be from Asia, a claim also endorsed by the veto-wielding Chinese.
"The Japanese are still focused on a permanent seat in the Security Council and are hopeful they can pull it off -if not in the company of India, Germany and Brazil, at least on their own political steam," says a longtime Asian diplomat.
But if they do eventually give up hopes for a Security Council seat before the end of the year, will they decide to stake their claims for the job of Secretary-General?
According to a time-honoured tradition – but not reflected in the U.N. charter – the job of Secretary-General should not be held by any of the world’s major political or economic powers, thereby ruling out countries such as the United States, Japan, China, Germany, France, Russia and Britain.
As a result, former incumbents have come from Norway (Trygve Lie), Sweden (Dag Hammarskjold), Burma (U. Thant), Austria (Kurt Waldheim), Peru (Javier Perez de Cuellar), Egypt (Boutros Boutros-Ghali) and Ghana (Annan).
But that tradition can be broken because it is not cast in stone. Japan, which is the second largest contributor to the U.N.’s regular budget, accounting for about 20 percent of the funds, has been exceptionally aggressive in demanding high-level jobs in a donor-driven world body.
But the Japanese are also conscious of the fact that if China has plans to veto Japan’s permanent membership in the Security Council, the Chinese can also wield that same veto against a Japanese becoming secretary-general. If Japan is ruled out, what of India?
The first shot was fired last month by a former Indian diplomat who has served both in New York and Washington. In an article in an Indian newspaper, ex-Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan laid out a possible scenario, perhaps reflecting the unannounced views of the upper echelons of the Indian foreign service.
In flying a political balloon, he singled out current under-secretary-general for Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, the highest-ranking Indian in the Secretariat, as a possible candidate.
So far, India has not publicly committed itself to any of the three declared Asian candidates.
"The dilemma for India is not about finding a suitable candidate to put forward," writes Sreenivasan.
"It is about the incompatibility between seeking a candidature and aspiring to become a permanent member."
In its quest for a permanent seat in the Security Council, India’s major problem is to secure a two-thirds majority in the 191-member General Assembly.
"But since that does not seem to be in the realm of possibility," argues Sreenivasan, "we should not give up the option of putting up a candidate for the post of Secretary-General."
Since India has been cozying up to the U.S. with its nuclear deal – and more importantly, with its open criticism of Iran’s nuclear ambitions – "the U.S. is not likely to veto an Indian," predicts Sreenivasan.
But the unknown factor is the Chinese veto.
Although China has continuously re-affirmed its support for an Asian as the next U.N. chief, it may have second thoughts about an Indian Secretary-General, particularly at a time when Washington is strengthening its relationship with India as a political and military counterweight to China.
Ramesh Thakur, a senior vice-rector of the Tokyo-based U.N. University, points out that there is no guarantee that the post of Secretary-General will go to an Asian, although the general sentiment in U.N. circles is in favour of an Asian.
"China has indicated strong support for the idea, and of course may veto any non-Asian candidate," said Thakur in a newspaper article last month. But this will not suffice if Asians cannot unite behind one candidate, or at least agree on a common strategy, he said.
One such strategy could be to seek general agreement in advance that the choice will be limited to Asian candidates, but as many candidates as desired may be nominated.
Last week, East Timor’s Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, also a 1996 Nobel Peace laureate, said he is yet to decide whether he will run for the job.
"One hesitation is a personal one," he said. "Do I really want to commit five years to a seven-day-week, 24-hour job?"
Ramos-Horta also said he has "personal obligations" to his home country where he played a leading role in the two decades old fight for independence from neighbouring Indonesia.
Since there is no love lost between East Timor and its former colonial master Indonesia, there is speculation at the United Nations that Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hassan Wirajuda may throw his hat in the ring – if and when Ramos-Horta decides to run.
"This could be a purely tactical move to undermine Ramos-Horta’s candidacy," says a Southeast Asian diplomat.
Thakur points out that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has already given group support to the Thai candidate. And there is no Northeast Asian counterpart that could campaign for the South Korean.
But why hasn’t the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation joined forces to provide collective support to Dhanapala, the candidate from its own region, especially as South Asia has never had a Secretary-General? he asked.
"Are South Asians really so jealous of each other that they would like all internal candidates to fail and someone else succeed, perhaps even a non-Asian? Outsiders will surely respect South Asia more for mounting a united campaign, even if this does not lead to success."
Seven LTTE cadres killed as military retaliates, civilians also injured
At least seven suspected LTTE cadres were killed and two soldiers injured when an attack was launched on a military checkpoint near the Nelliady filling station in Jaffna yesterday evening.
Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said that around 2.15 p.m. seven LTTE cadres armed with hand grenades arrived in two three-wheelers and launched an attack on the two soldiers at the military checkpoint near the filling station at Nelliyadi and fled the scene.
"On being informed about the movement of the three-wheelers, troops at the nearby Navindil camp blocked the passage of the three-wheelers and fired at them. Simultaneously, a huge explosion occurred inside the second three-wheeler killing all the men inside", the spokesman said.
Then soldiers had opened fire at the first three-wheeler while the LTTE cadres had thrown hand grenades at the troops. After the fierce battle ended, soldiers recovered seven bodies of LTTE cadres along with several hand grenades scattered around, the spokesman said.
He said the SLMM was to be informed about the incident while magisterial and police inquiries were being made.
Military sources said the cadres were from LTTE’s auxiliary force which had been given military training for handling hand grenades and weapons to carry out attacks on the military, posing as civilians.
Following the incident, the security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the area.
The north was marred by violence from yesterday morning when two home guards were killed and nine injured in two different incidents in Vavuniya.
Military sources said a cluster of claymore mines allegedly activated by the LTTE killed the two home guards at Avaranthulawa on the Vavuniya-Cheddikulam road and injured two others. The home guards were caught in the blast while returning from a Police post where they were on duty.
In the second incident a police constable was injured when a suspected LTTE cadre hurled a hand grenade at him and opened fire near the Vavuniya clock tower where he was on duty yesterday afternoon. A soldier and two civilians were also injured in the attack.
Shops and other institutions in Vavuniya were closed after the incidents while Army reinforcements were called in to defuse the tense situation that was building up. The latest incidents came a day after the police found three bodies of blindfolded youths with several stab injuries from the Cheddikulam area in Vavuniya. According to initial investigations, the victims had been stabbed to death while their mouths were plastered.
With the latest incidents, the SLMM reiterated its call to the Government and the LTTE to act with restraint.
"We would like to reiterate to both the government and the LTTE that violence appears to be escalating beyond control and those who are suffering the most are the innocent civilians," SLMM spokesperson Helen Olafsdottir said.
Meanwhile, another attempt allegedly by the LTTE to explode a powerful remote controlled claymore mine targetting the Security Forces was thwarted when the Air force detected it yesterday at the Anuradhapura junction in Trincomalee. It was only on Monday the LTTE exploded a similar claymore mine at Trincomalee town targeting a Navy foot patrol, killing four civilians and a sailor.
The claymore mine fixed on a push bicycle, exploded as a Navy foot patrol was going past Sanmugam Vidyalayam in Trincomalee town.
In another incident in Jaffna a soldier was injured when a gunman fired at an Army sentry point at Thirunelveli in Jaffna.
Meanwhile, a soldier attached to a Nagarkovil Army camp committed suicide yesterday morning by hanging himself inside a barracks.-Daily Mirror-By Kurulu Kariyakarawana, Easwaran Rutnam and Sunil Jayasiri
As Canadian Tamil mothers, we condemn the recent suicide bombing that was carried out by a Tamil Pregnant woman. We urge all the members of our community to condemn this kind of atrocities which may come in the name of Tamil freedom.
As Canadian Tamils, we welcome the recent banning of the LTTE by the Government of Canada. It is true that the community is affected by the extortion and intimidation tactics by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). We welcome the actions of the Canadian government and the actions of the law enforcement agencies especially the RCMP’s actions are with the ground realities of Tamils in Toronto.
As Canadians we also urge Canadian government to act politically on international stage to stop the suicide bombings by the LTTE and also we urge the Government of Canada to pressure the Sri Lankan government to go for devolution of power within a unified island of Sri Lanka.
As Canadians we want to preserve the multicultural mosaic in Canada at the same time we urge the Canadians to wear Black ribbons to condemn the violence which is orchestrated by both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government forces. We declare the one week starting from May 08, 2006 as a “Black Week” to condemn this kind of violence.
As a group of Tamil mothers, we humbly request the LTTE leadership not to use innocent babies who are in the womb of mothers as suicide bombers. A mother’s affection & emotional ties to a baby can be felt by another mother only. So we kindly urge the LTTE leadership to consult the Tamil mother’s front in Sri Lanka before the use of next pregnant women as a suicide bomber.
Due to the nature of this attack we urge all Candian mothers not to have any celebrations this summer. We humbly request all the Tamils to boycott “Kondadum” – a festival organized for raising funds for the war by the LTTE supporters, when a baby was killed in the name of Tamil nation. The funds which will be use to brainwash another depressed pregnant woman to go as suicide bobmber(s).
Mercy Grace PooPaulpillai – President
2345 Confederation Pky,
Mississuaga, Ont. L5B 2H3