Time for U.S. pressure on Sri Lanka
June 4th, 2013
07:15 AM ET

Time for U.S. pressure on Sri Lanka

By Karunyan Arulanantham, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Karunyan Arulanantham is the executive director of the Tamil American Peace Initiative, an organization of Tamil Americans. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Amid the jungle and sandy beaches of northeast Sri Lanka’s Vanni region lie tragic truths the government has desperately sought to suppress in the four years since its civil war with the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) came to a sudden and gory halt. On the Mullivaikal peninsula, between the Nanthikadal Lagoon and the sea just north of the town of Mullaithivu, the government declared a safe zone, where hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped as they sought refuge from the bloodshed.

What happened next is almost unimaginable. Seeking to crush the LTTE once and for all, the government proceeded to shell the No Fire Zone and surrounding areas after assuring the world that they would not use heavy weapons. The government declared victory over the LTTE in late May 2009, but in doing so, tens of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians were also killed by government forces.

According to the U.N. Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed during the war’s final stages, while “only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure.” Some analysts paint an even starker picture. The Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Joseph Rayappu, has testified that over 140,000 civilians remain unaccounted for since the fall of 2008.

In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling for the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” that occurred during the war’s final stages. But how honest are we being with ourselves when we ask a government that stands chief among the accused to credibly and independently investigate its own wrongdoing?

More from CNN: Tamils want inquiry

In fact, the government continues to promote the very same climate of oppression and indifference that largely fueled Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict and led to civil war.

The UNHRC is well aware of this, citing in its report the continuation of “enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.”

These alleged transgressions were echoed in last year’s U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which also noted “a lack of accountability for thousands who disappeared in previous years; and widespread impunity for a broad range of human rights abuses, particularly involving police torture, and attacks on media institutions and the judiciary.”

Meanwhile, the Tamils in particular continue to be marginalized, demonized and endangered. They are denied political representation and economic opportunity while enduring the seizure and militarization of their homes and lands. The latest reported land grab by the army is the alleged seizure of 6,381 acres of land belonging to Tamils in just one small northern area of Valikamam, although others have also been claimed.

After the war, the government scrapped the singing of the national anthem in Tamil at official functions, and is quickly and decisively dismantling the cultural identity of the Tamils.

Aware of all this, what is the international community waiting for? A U.N. mechanism that would allow the international community to act decisively and initiate independent investigations and conduct a U.N. supervised referendum on options for peaceful coexistence is long overdue. This is by far the best way to achieve real reconciliation.

The Tamil people deserve to have their rights protected. Yet they now face a systematic attempt by a conquering, vindictive government to erase them from the country’s future and the nation’s collective memory. By definition, you can’t have reconciliation or stability when certain groups are perennially subjugated.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government has mounted an expensive public relations strategy that denies and distracts from the real issues the country faces. It promises to take meaningful steps forward, but only makes halfhearted attempts in the hopes that more years will pass, and the international community will forget. But forgetting the past will only ensure it is repeated.

Because the government won’t pursue truth and reconciliation, the international community must. And the United States should take the lead on such an effort. As President Obama said on May 13, 2009 as the war neared its end, “Going forward, Sri Lanka must seek a peace that is secure and lasting, and grounded in respect for all of its citizens.”

Judging by recent history, one thing seems clear: Sri Lanka won’t solve its problems on its own.

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Topics: Asia • Conflict

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soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. trevor

    Don't go too far

    If there is one race in the whole world that can murder children in cold blood and video it on mobile phones,
    that race is THE PROUD SRILANKAN SINHALESE.

    please watch srilanka's killing fields-channel 4

    June 6, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  2. NY Nathan

    Well, If you believe in what you write here, lets agree for an IMPARTIAL INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION as a sane person rather than BIASED BASHING on the Freedom Fighters Tamil Tigers wothout blaming the racist Srilanka who did the Genocide and deny access to any Independent media let alone an independent investigation

    June 6, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
  3. maxter

    oh yeah , looks at what good guys LTTE have done , barbarics...

    just search youtube -Dehiwela Train Bomb Blast 2008-05-26 Sri Lanka

    June 6, 2013 at 11:48 am | Reply
  4. muthalige

    I really feel sorry for LORD BUDDHA.
    these srilankan Buddhists not only commit barbarism beyond any human imagination,but they fearlessly and shamelessly
    continue to write in public in support of their cruelty.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:51 am | Reply
  5. NY Nathan

    Maxter, Lets assume that LTTE did that, all we want impartial investigation into all Killings of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim civilians. You cannot be even be neutral even when accuse killings of civilians, We Tamils on the other hand urging an Impartial International investigation into all Killings no matter the victim was Sinhala, Tamil or Muslims, If LTTE did any crime, let them to be punished and the same applies to yiur beloved Srilankan troops. What is wring with you guys?????????????accusing LTTE for all crimes and the same time SHY AWAY from any Investigation. COWARDICE

    June 6, 2013 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • juliet

      Are you serious .....??????????
      begging these srilankans for independent investigation.
      These blood thirsty maniacs are 22nd century incarnation of HITLER,just read above,you will realize how they are standing by the crimes they are committing.
      do you really believe you can get an international inquiry out of srilankan sinhalese?????????? COME OOOON

      June 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  6. NY Nathan

    IF SRILANKA HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE AND BLAME ALL ON THE SO CALLED LTTE TERRORISTS, LETS HAVE THE INTERNATIONAL IMARTIAL INVESTIGATION.

    Lets assume that LTTE did that, all we want impartial investigation into all Killings of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim civilians. You cannot be even be neutral even when accuse killings of civilians, We Tamils on the other hand urging an Impartial International investigation into all Killings no matter the victim was Sinhala, Tamil or Muslims, If LTTE did any crime, let them to be punished and the same applies to yiur beloved Srilankan troops. What is wring with you guys?????????????accusing LTTE for all crimes and the same time SHY AWAY from any Investigation. COWARDICE

    June 6, 2013 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • Band

      Hi Bother, you seem to be completely forgotten by now Sri Lankan troops got arms to save it's citizens from the world deadliest terrorist organization who did not care any lives whether it's Sinhala or Tamil or Muslim? Troops started this war when they realized that LTTE closed the Mavilaru tank to let starve thousand farmers during the so called peace period.

      OK Suppose you got an independent investigation, suppose it revealed both LTTE and Sri Lankan military did violate certain rules and killed innocent due to cross fire? so what? We dont get any thing

      Are you getting paid your balance share? May be.. But what we wantonly a long term solution to this issue now not to count dead bodied again and again and create non human; separatism. Today Sri Lankans want to live together after 30 years. we want equal opportunities to make our livelihood.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
  7. Thiviya Sinnapunday

    Let's have a toast tonight for the total decimation of Tamil terrorists, who were branded by the FBI as the deadliest terrorists ever to walk on earth. drink tonight.

    No wonder Sri Lankan troops were commended by a number of US military experts on the planning and execution of the greatest humanitarian mission that rescued nearly 400,000 Tamil people from the grips of the Tamil terrorists.

    June 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  8. rashed

    Actually, I think you'd probably control bokeh in post. Just a thought, but an interesting way you'd accomplish this is by combining the infinite depth of field camera with some sort of low power laser to do a depth map of the scene. if you recorded the two set of data together (could actually do a 2 pixel camera, 1 sensitive to the visual light, one which would record the laser reflections), you'd have the ability to really control just about everything about how the image ends up appearing. Could be interesting.

    June 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  9. slwala

    USA's calling shots around the world are long gone – certainly not in South Asia. USA is currently running on flat tires of sorts and depends on China to keep its economy from crippling. Thanks to China and Russia that maintain a balance when it comes to USA created problems around the World while the USA is backed up by the so called UN in partnering Americans in crime activity in world politics.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  10. UNHCR

    US Plays its thing with UNHCR while Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to support a Independent State for Tamilian people. UNHCR is a political instrument like Amnesty Int'l but it cant get separate state.

    UNHCR resolution is only a game US is playing to put China against India, using Sri Lanka as battle ground.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:26 am | Reply
  11. Ravi

    Mullivaikkal was the largest single massacre in Tamil history Because the Tamil people demanded their right to be free as a nation, because they demanded their right to a homeland and their right to form a state. They not only demanded this, but they had built that state on their own. This demand was a challenge to the unitary state of Sri Lanka which the British created, India supported since the last phase of the Cold War.
    A UN internal report suggest the final death toll may have been over 70,000 and the Bishop of Mannar has said that 147,000 remain unaccounted for. Many more were horrendously injured , and over 300,000 rounded up and incarcerated in internment camps.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:27 am | Reply
    • Band

      “Bishop of Mannar has said that 147,000 remain unaccounted for!”
      What a funny argument to use. Did he do a comprehensive research? Are you an intellectual to believe? So believe me also. I am telling only 6000 died at the final phase. So you can believe me using the same theory of using Bishop’s data. At least I am a mixed person: 50% Tamil and 50% Sinhalese. I am balanced to even think about this situation.
      I really feel by seeing your and NY Nathan’s response here, how people have their own agenda to promote LTTE ideology and how much emotional and arrogant to do that. I know you are hurt because your god father Praba is dead today. But who cares you and your biased gangs? 20 million people in this country know how to live together. Who cares about the crying of 5% Sri Lankan for their own economic and political survival.
      We have an elected government by 61% of the population? 90% have voted against racism and separatism. Isn't that enough for you?

      Can you name a few so called independent organizations? We like to know. We don’t need paid people and paid organizations to appear as independent investigators. We know why you are so much keen on this because you already paid international media and other organizations to promote this independent investigation theory. Then you can deploy the next set of paid people to come here to investigate. We know how money works even in US and many other countries even at highest level.
      Don’t try to fool us. Both Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese were fooled by all politicians and LTTE ideology here. Now I don’t think it’s easy to fool. I feel very sorry when I hear some Tamil's story here. They are 30 years behind because of so called freedom killers- LTTE. THey want to see them remain in the same situation. Then only they can manipulate them.

      Every country in Europe, in South Pacific and in American continent are racist for Asians. Do you ask a separate county or state for you? Funny theory....

      June 7, 2013 at 9:08 am | Reply
  12. Sudath Madugalle

    If not for Sinhalese soldiers, Tamils would still be fooled by Fugitive Prabha.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Reply
  13. mike

    *******Thank you CHANNEL 4 for EXPOSING SRILANKAN SINAHALESE.......

    *******SHAME ON YOU...CNN for protecting them...........

    June 8, 2013 at 12:58 am | Reply
    • phill

      Perfectly true
      Srilanka sinhalese should be excluded from human race...These disgusting hyenas don't deserve a place
      among human beings.

      ****Have any doubts....? kindly watch channel 4-srilanka's killing fields-and see it for yourself what these srilankan sinhalese are capable of.

      June 8, 2013 at 1:08 am | Reply
      • Band

        Brother, we don't need to see films created by channel 4. We saw live horror film for 30 years. Seems like you have not seen any massacres done by LTTE. Very innocent, poor rural villagers, pregnant mothers, small kids.killed like dogs..we are laughing at LTTE sympathizers who are pretending exciting by showing a paid drama through channel four. We have some good pictures/live videos that you can enjoy with blood all over the body without some body parts removed by LTTE killers. How Many people in your channel four. may be 10-20 max. But we can show you 1000s innocent civilians killed by LTTE, who strongly supported by diaspora funding.

        Remember you enjoyed these incidents when LTTE did. I remember some university students celebrated these killings within the Peradeniya University, middle of no tamil community. Shame on you who never cared human for 30 plus years. now shedding crocodile tears. If not we defeated LTTE, they must have killed another 100,000 by today.

        However, I feel very sorry for civilian people killed (not civilian dressed LTTE cadres) during cross fire when LTTE used the no fire zone to escape, hide behind civilians to fire mortar guns etc. Those also should be considered as war heroes who sacrificed their life to save this country from brutal Praba and the gang.

        June 8, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  14. NY Nathan

    Srilanka – a NAKED RACIST STATE where no mercy to Minorities at all, ONLY UN REFERENDUM among Tamils and Muslims the ONLY ANSWER

    IF SRILANKA HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE AND BLAME ALL ON THE SO CALLED LTTE TERRORISTS, LETS HAVE THE INTERNATIONAL IMARTIAL INVESTIGATION.

    Lets assume that LTTE did that, all we want impartial investigation into all Killings of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim civilians. You cannot be even be neutral even when accuse killings of civilians, We Tamils on the other hand urging an Impartial International investigation into all Killings no matter the victim was Sinhala, Tamil or Muslims, If LTTE did any crime, let them to be punished and the same applies to yiur beloved Srilankan troops. What is wring with you guys?????????????accusing LTTE for all crimes and the same time SHY AWAY from any Investigation. COWARDICE

    June 8, 2013 at 3:01 am | Reply
    • podosky

      exactly-A UN HELD REFERENDUM AMONG TAMILS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE DEMOCRATIC SOLUTION-that will save the
      tamils from totally massacred by the srilankan governments.

      Well, the Indian tamil students are OUT ON THE STREETS asking for it.......WHERE ARE THE CEYLON TAMILS......???????

      IF YOU DON'T DEMAND YOU WONT GET IT-you will even end up loosing what you have...

      June 8, 2013 at 6:14 am | Reply
      • siva

        Very Very True..

        This is what is happening in srilanka right now,where the srilanka government is SYSTEMATICALLY AND SILENTLY
        DESTROYING THE REMAINING TAMILS while the Tamil politicians like TNA are more than happy continuing their DIRTY WORKS like-PARTY CEREMONIES
        -CROWNING THEIR LEADERS LIKE SAMPANTHAN
        -DISTRACTING PEOPLE BY ORGANIZING FALSE PROTESTS like FASTING FOR 4 HOURS
        -ENJOYING THE LUXURY IN COLOMBO and WESTERN COUNTRIES WHILE PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING IN VANNI
        -etc
        -etc.............................

        June 8, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  15. Angampora

    Tamils done a stretegic blunder with Rajiv gandhi sui cide blast and Gen-ocide of Indian Peace Keeping Force.

    June 8, 2013 at 4:03 am | Reply
    • senevirathne

      Rajiv Gandhi is NO MORE

      Prabakaran is NO MORE

      And the LTTE is NO MORE

      Why are you still blowing your empty horn...you DIM WITTED

      June 8, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply
  16. Muthalif

    Rajiv Gandhi lesson 101, Tamils bite hand that feed.

    We need international investigation to understand Tamil species.

    June 8, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Sensei

      Lesson ONE not 101 ... China eats head they cut off of those who help them – see Tibet and the Mao Chinese Cannibalism when Mao fed his troops on them using his butcher commandos during the night ... even ate their own weakened soldiers to stop the cramps in HIS belly!

      June 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Reply
      • trueMan

        ---– Oh so well done turning Mao’s HISTORY and flipping it! … Mao on his run from Chiang Kai Sheik … HUNGRY and CRAMPING UP without food … fed his army on poor peasants he captured (at night – using the butcher commandos) on his way into Tibet … at worst when he reached into the thousands of miles “barren” (still Indian Protectorate - by permission of someone gullible called NEHRU in India) plateau of Tibet he had to cannibalize his own army … secretly (using special butcher commandos during the nights and shuffling his platoons as patrols against Sheik’s army who were “phantomlike” FIXED rumor “pursuing” – NOT – and assumed killed!) culling weakened soldiers from diverted “patrols” – same taste as “pork” – ONLY a few know and the “NEW” from childhood the new education is an effort of smoke and mirror “creative” history to en-mass the (“knowledge”) PLOY and garner internal support (using the now evolving brain-washing Maoism-red-book) to overcome the knowledge trickling AROUND from the FEW of the “butcher commandos” – and wiping the knowledge of STEALING Tibet from under the WORLD’s nose – for ever! Courtesy of USA in MANY ways!

        June 8, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
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