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Implications of India’s decision on Sri Lanka UNHCR Resolution April 5, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Shanaka Jayasekara

First published in Future Directions International on 4 April 2012


The Indian decision to vote in support of the March 2012 US-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka seems a departure from its stated doctrine for an Indian sphere of influence.


Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated, in the so-called “Indira Doctrine”, that ‘India will neither intervene in the domestic affairs of any state in the region unless requested to do so, nor tolerate such intervention by an outsider power.’ By supporting the US resolution, India, in some sense, has outsourced its regional stake to an external power.

But, is this a complete change in Indian foreign policy at the behest of Tamil Nadu, or part of a new Indian approach to broaden the stakeholders in the region? India has, in recent times, opted to stand in the shadow of multilateral processes to deal with regional issues. In Nepal, the Indians preferred to watch the UN’s UNMIN special mission manage the peace process. In the Maldives, India outsourced responsibility, with the Commonwealth Secretariat taking the lead. (more…)

Sri Lanka’s stability critical to New Delhi’s Indian Ocean ambitions June 30, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in Future Directions International.


A controversial advisory panel report, published by the United Nations in late March 2011, called for a full investigation into the perceived breaches in the Laws of Armed Conflict during the endgame of Sri Lanka’s civil war. As a result, India continues to face the challenge of balancing its relations with Sri Lanka, while appeasing the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is home to over 72 million Indian Tamils.


‘People of righteousness’ march on for Sri Lanka June 26, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

A longer version first appeared here in Transcurrents

The war crimes accusations levelled against the Sri Lankan government at the moment are driven by a complex coalition of forces. In the vanguard are people of righteousness. Such a man is Gordon Weiss. His demeanour as he addresses television audiences is that of a crusader. The iconic picture of himself adopted in his very own website, benignly overseeing a mass of African children, reminds one of a missionary.

The advocates of human rights today are reminiscent of the nineteenth century missionaries in Asia who set out to save the poor benighted ‘natives’ and rid them of idol worship. The moral crusaders of today pursue a different agenda. They are secular fundamentalists marching forth to cleanse the world of “evil” in the form of carbon pollution, smoke inhalation, et cetera. However, like the missionaries of yesteryear, they adhere to an either/or evaluation of the worlds before them.

For Sri Lanka these people of righteousness present a clear picture: Eelam War IV was a brutal war involving atrocities from both sides in the conflict, government and LTTE. It was also ‘a war without witnesses’, a phrase parroted ad nauseam and repeated recently by Weiss in a high-profile ABC interview. This text is self-serving: it renders the spokespersons into the only honest witnesses.

Their witness includes statistics on ‘civilian’ deaths. This is not surprising. We are dwelling in an era captivated by the magical wand of statistics and the impression of precision generated by the imprint of number. So Gordon Weiss told us earlier that his computation of civilian deaths ranged from 15,000 to 40,000. Invariably this sound bite gets twisted in world reportage and is presented categorically in several outlets as ‘40,000’.


Two Indian Reporters’ Post-War Pictures at the LTTE’s Last Redoubt, May 14-19, 2009 June 10, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

Editor’s note: To view the pictures referred to in this article please go to the link here.

The Sri Lankan government kept a tight lid on the foreign media personnel allowed into the war zone. This is hardly surprising. If one was a company commander at the battlefront seeking to best the LTTE forces in front of one’s troops it would be pretty silly to have personnel with mobile phones reporting back in circumstances which could be intercepted and relayed within minutes to the enemy networks.

Because Western media were mostly kept out, a cliché appeared on the airwaves in 2009: Eelam War IV, it was stressed, was “a war without witnesses.” In late May 2011, Gordon Weiss repeated the same phrase in the course of a two-minute interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (a rare privilege for anyone).

This terminology was, and is, not intended to be taken too literally. After all, the same sources cite the testimonies of Tamil witnesses speaking about the bloodletting in the course of the last five months of the war; and a few international and local UN workers have provided some of the evidence utilised by the UN Panel Report and by Weiss in his ‘The Cage’. What is being suggested and highlighted in this popular sound-bite is the fact that the GOSL kept out foreign journalists so that its atrocities (alleged) would not see the light of day. (more…)

Civilian casualties, IDP camps and asylum seekers December 9, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Sunday Leader and the full article may be viewed at this link.

Father Rohan Silva is a respected senior Catholic priest who has been actively involved in building bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka through the Centre for Society and Religion, a Catholic charity which he heads. His work has seen him play a role in assisting Tamil civilians recover from the impact of the civil war. In this context, he told the author earlier in June this year, about the impact of the final months of the war on Tamil civilians who were caught in the crossfire, the conditions in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and the factors leading to the flight of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.

Father Rohan Silva


Omanthai! Omanthai! Succour for the Tamil thousands August 12, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

This article first appeared on transCurrents 11 August 2010.

This article was made possible through interviews with Mrs Annet Royce nee Rajajohn (2 June 2010), T. Thamilalagan (3 June 2010) and Peter Voegtli (1 June 2010). I also interviewed Singham of SEEDS, two expatriate executives in UN agencies and two of the Sewalanka officers in Jaffna, Harsha Navaratne of Sewalanka in Colombo and C. Soloman of the Health Ministry (now in UNICEF).  Supplemented by a memo from Lakshi Abeysekera of Sewalanka at the end.

The citizens of Thāmilīlam who struggled out of the inferno of war in the north-east corner of the northern Vanni during the months of January-May 2009 journeyed on foot or boat. During the first few months the escapee refugees got out mostly in dribs and drabs. But circa 20-23 April, and then again in mid-May during the last stages as the LTTE resistance was smashed, two hordes of “Thāmilīlam people” poured out of the confines of the LTTE corral.

These Thāmilīlam people, or TEP as I shall present them in shorthand, included Tiger fighters in civilian attire as well as other Tiger functionaries. It is probable that all the TEP were in a state of exhaustion. Bombs and bullets in that context do not distinguish between age, gender, class, or military/civilian status.

Attending to the needs of the TEP from the month of January 2009 onwards within the parameters of the government’s insistence on security precautions was a feat of considerable coordination for combination of military and government personnel, foreign and local INGO personnel, local NGO functionaries, hired local staff and volunteers assembled for the purpose. My focus here will be restricted to the large body of Tamil refugee people whom these agencies had had to deal with in May 2009 and the special operation to feed them mounted at the former border post at Omanthai.


Reflections on the Tigers May 28, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Sri Lanka , comments closed

Guest author: Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Reprinted from The Diplomat Blogs. Read the full article

A year ago this week, the Sri Lankan government officially declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in one of the most extraordinary counter-insurgency campaigns in recent times.

The endgame of the conflict, particularly from January to May 2009, saw the bloodiest fighting, often with the presence of tens of thousands of civilians that the LTTE desperately used to fend off its inevitable defeat. Since then, new evidence has become public that offers further insights into the final months of Sri Lanka’s secessionist civil war.

For decades, the jungle-laden Mullaitivu District, located in Sri Lanka’s northeast, served as the LTTE’s main stronghold. However, under significant military pressure from the Sri Lankan Army during the final stages of the conflict, the LTTE conducted a fighting retreat towards its last bastion astride the Mullaitivu coastline.


Sri Lanka: government faces the spectre of war crimes accusations September 16, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Perera, Jehan, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Jehan Perera

The issue of war crimes has been in the air since the final showdown between the government and LTTE commenced in 2006. There was early evidence that this was going to be a fight to the finish in which the civilian population would be implicated. The LTTE goaded the newly elected government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to war by repeatedly ambushing dozens of soldiers in the north of the country and claiming that it was not they, but the angry people of the north who were doing it. This was a most provocative action that dimmed the distinction between combatant and civilian. The seeds of the disaster to befall the civilian population were laid here.

The final phase of the war was the most brutal in Sri Lanka’s modern history. Unable to withstand the superior firepower of the Sri Lankan armed forces, the LTTE fell back deeper into its strongholds. But in their withdrawal they did an entirely unexpected thing with possibly no parallel anywhere else in the world. They took the entire civilian population with them on their retreat, and claimed that the people accompanying them did so of their own free will. This included civilians from other parts of the country who happened to be visiting their relatives in the LTTE-controlled areas at that time. A civilian population that exceeded 300,000 became hostage to the LTTE. (more…)

Coping with the legacy of war in Sri Lanka September 7, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Perera, Jehan, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Jehan Perera

The international community’s continuing desire to support Sri Lanka may be seen as stemming from a desire to see the ethnic conflict being resolved in a peaceful and just manner.  The importance of such conflict resolution is that it would lead to reconciliation and long-term development.  There are, however, contrary views that are based on a different understanding.  Those who hold such views would see at least part of the international involvement in Sri Lanka as having an ulterior motive – to strengthen Tamil separatism, weaken Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and employ traditional colonial methods of divide and rule.

Such a belief in an international conspiracy reached a peak during the last phase of the war, which ended less than four months ago. At that time there was considerable pressure from sections of the international community for a ceasefire that might have saved thousands of lives, including those of the LTTE leadership.  However, many influential opinion leaders in Sri Lanka saw this as an unwarranted and biased international intervention that was primarily motivated by the ulterior motive of saving the LTTE and its leadership to fight another day.  This same mistrust continues in a new form today. (more…)

Sri Lanka: not only a question of short-term security August 31, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Perera, Jehan, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Jehan Perera

The issue that is proving to be the most contentious in Sri Lanka’s post-war context is that of the approximately 280,000 internally displaced persons who are presently confined to 32 welfare centres in the North.  This is taken as a necessary, and temporary, situation by the Sri Lankan government and a majority of the people.  The government has come under increased pressure to improve the conditions of those camps, which it is committed to doing, and also to release the people, which it has problems in doing.

While the facilities within the welfare camps have been a source of concern, the most controversial issue has been the barbed wire fences and army guards that surround them, which deny to the people the freedom to move.  There has also been no registering of people in a transparent manner. Hence even if people disappear there is no way to trace them.  The government has claimed that over 10,000 LTTE cadre have been discovered in these camps, and that there are more to be found.

tamil refugee camp