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President Rajapakse sends an emissary to
On 8 January 2007, Palitha Kohona, arrived in Australia from Sri Lanka on a ‘mission’ – to ask the Australian Government to ban funds going to the LTTE. He was interviewed by a well-known Australian newspaper. You may still find it on the net, Put ban on Tigers support: Sri Lanka. I was sent the article by expatriate Tamils in Australia. My first reaction was to put the article where it belongs - the waste bin. However, I thought I might respond, for reasons which I will set out..
Kohona also saw Senator Senator Steve Hutchins, the (Labor) Federal Senator for New South Wales. He is also the Chairman of the Australia-Sri Lanka Friendship Society. Hutchins went on to make a speach in Parliament, and delivered a frontal attack on the Tamil struggle. I will deal with this disgraceful and highly partisan address later. I also happen to know the Leader of Senator Hutchins’ Party, Kevin Rudd, who, with a little luck, will be Australia’s next Prime Minister. I will send him a copy of my response to Senator Hutchins.
The reason for my response to the Kohona interview is that it can form the basis of responses in your own country to nonsense presented to your respective Governments by the likes of Kohona who are the new international salesmen, commissioned to sell Rajapakse’s failed policies. The international media, and politicians, who publish and make adverse comments on the Tamil struggle base their one-sided comments on what people like Kohona tell them.
Palitha Kohona, is the Special Advisor to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). He has just been promoted as Secretary to the Foreign Ministry!
1. The newspaper report says that Kohona urged the Australian Government to enact domestic laws making it an offence to raise money for the Tamil Tigers. It is not Dr.Kohona’s business to advise the Australian Government to enact laws, domestic or otherwise, any more than it is the business of the Australian government (or the US government, or for that matter, any Government) to advise the Sri Lankan Government what laws it should enact.
2. The report says that Dr.Kohona’s visit coincided with “fresh terrorist attacks in his country”. Indeed it did. On the very day that the report was published, a Peace Rally in Colombo led by a large number of Sinhalese peace activists, Members of Parliament (across the entire political spectrum), and leading members of civic society who had arranged a much-needed public meeting, was disrupted, even before it started, by more than 100 thugs led by a Deputy Minister Mervin Silva in President Rajapakse’s government. Three journalists, including a BBC reporter were attacked. I think Dr.Kohona should address the terrorism unleashed by his Government, not only on the Tamils in the North and East, but on my people, the Sinhalese, in the Sri Lankan South , who are struggling to stop this war. Incidentally, Mervin Silva is the obliging man who stepped down to enable Rajapakse to nominate of his brothers to Parliament. I am old that it now brings up to 39, the members of the Rajapakse family in various parts of the Government. This is even more impressive than what my cousin, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga did when she said the politics was ‘our family business’. Thank God I left the country, not that I would have allowed myself to be sucked into this dust-bin.
We are talking of a so-called ‘Democracy’- the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. If this is Democracy, what then would be a Fascism? Perhaps you might ask Dr Konona, and get back to me.
3. Your report states that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are fighting for an independent homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Yes, indeed they are. Your reporter seems to be ignorant of the fact that there has been serious discrimination against the Tamil ‘minority’ since 1956 in language, education and employment and determined efforts by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) to relocate Sinhalese to the Tamil homelands in the North and East to make the Tamils a minority even in the areas where they are a majority.
The demand for an independent Tamil homeland in the North and East was taken by the Tamil people who overwhelmingly voted for a separate Tamil State in the General Elections of 1977, after their political leaders had failed in peaceful Gandhi-style negotiations from 1956 –1977, to get even a Federal Tamil State. What the LTTE did was to take up arms to force the GOSL to take the Tamil demands seriously. Until then, Tamil demands were just a joke for a succession of Sinhalese-dominated Governments. Allthis is painfully explained in the three (and from tomorrow, four) DVDs I have just released. Can some patriotic Sri Lankan send these DVDs to Kohona?
4. The report says that “the Tigers found their inspiration and funding from overseas”. The Tigers do not need inspiration from overseas. They, and the Tamil people, do not need “inspiration”; the reality of discrimination against them over a long period of time, and more recently the bombing and shelling of the Tamil North and now, the East, making more than 300,000 Tamil civilians refugees, is “inspiration” enough.
5. Dr.Kohona estimates that one sixth of the estimated US$ 10-30 million raised internationally for the Tigers comes from Australia. There are large numbers of Tamils in this country who still have families in the North and East. These civilians are being subjected to the most brutal assault by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The only people, and I stress only people, who have put up even a semblance of resistance to this assault by the GOSL, have been the Tamil Tigers.
A group that has played a key role in coming to the humanitarian assistance of over half a million civilians in the Tamil North and East has been the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO). The GOSL has opted out of the care of people living in his area. Whether they live or die seems to be of no concern to Dr.Kohona’s government.
6. The report quotes Dr.Kohona as saying, ”Australia is one of their (LTTE) biggest sources of their funding and of course these funds do not go to any charitable or other purpose. They are used for procuring weapons on the international black market”.
There are two points here.
1) A large amount of the funds and assistance sent by Australians is to the TRO, a recognized NGO in Sri Lanka which, in fact, received an award from the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga for its humanitarian work in the North and East.
2) As for the “black market” – the Tamil Tigers procure weapons in the ‘black market’, while the GOSL procures far more sophisticated and lethal weapons in the ‘white market’. Is that a problem?
7. Dr.Kohona said he wanted to “convey very firmly” that the GOSL was committed to achieve peace through negotiations. This ‘commitment’ by the GOSL is currently being displayed by the ruthless bombardment of the East targeting Tamil-speaking civilians, by the Armed Forces of Kohona’s Government, bombs being even dropped on refugee camps. That is why Mr.Kohona’s government has prevented international observers from getting to the area. There is too much to hide, and is being hidden. I have shown just a minute part of this in the DVDs I have released. It is now up to the expatriate Tamil community to copy and distribute these DVDs to those from whom Kohona’s Government is struggling to conceal this humanitarian disaster.
The Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, has clearly stated only a few weeks ago (New Year’s eve, to be specific), that his intention is to militarily crush Tamil resistance, and Gotabaya Rajapakse wants three years to crush the LTTE. If Dr.Kohona thinks that this is “achieving peace through negotiations”, he is talking a different language. The GOSL canard has nothing to do with peace, but a lot to do with obtaining foreign aid to prop up a crumbling State.
8. Dr.Kohona says that he was in no doubt that Australia was taking the problem of terrorism seriously. I am afraid he is wrong. Australia (and the rest of the developed world) is not taking the problem of terrorism, of State terrorism in Sri Lanka, seriously. Indeed, they are becoming part of the problem by militarily equipping a ruthless regime that is bent on a military solution to a political problem. I have shown the type of weapons being unleased on the Tamil civilian population in the East (the North is to follow) by Kohona’s Government.
Sri Lanka has no external enemies. Yet, it has one of the largest armies, indeed on a per capita basis, probably the largest army in South Asia. This is the army that is being militarily equipped by the US, UK, Israel, and Pakistan, to name just a few, to enable the GOSL to crush its own citizens – the civilian Tamil population. Some 50,000 of its troops (99% Sinhalese) are stationed in the Jaffna Peninsula (99% Tamil). This is an Army of Occupation whose entire agenda is to terrorise the Tamil population.
Let me give you some figures which Dr.Kohona would rather not give you. The Defence expenditure of this near-bankrupt country has escalated by some 45% this year. This is, mind you, with a Ceasefire holding, as claimed by President Rajapakse, no less! The Defence budget is much higher than the combined budget for health and education. These are facts that the International community should be made aware of.
Rajapakse’s Finance Minister has just said that the massive increase in the ‘Defence’ Budget is not to but arms but to pay the Armed Forces, some 175,000. Australia, with all its overseas commitments, has just 91,000 in the Armed Forces. Sri Lanka, a miserably poor country with no eternal enemies and no overseas commitments, has nearly double the Armed Forces.
The Sinhalese do not know, or want to know, that Sri Lanka rules a quarter of the country through the barrel of a gun. As I have said before, we are speaking of a country which has the temerity to call itself the Democratic Socialist Republic.
Questions must be asked as to who is defending whom. To claim that the Armed Forces are defending Jaffna is absurd. Jaffna does not need to be defended – the Tamils are not going to run away with Jaffna. To claim that Jaffna is being defended from the Tamil Tigers is equally absurd. The Armed Forces currently number 160,000 fighting some 2,000 Tamil Tigers, if that. The Army has the most sophisticated weapons which include a massive military Air Force, multi-barrel rocket launchers and every destructive weapon, except nuclear weapons, at its command. To claim that such a regime is under threat from a couple of thousand militants is nonsense.
This has nothing to do with ‘Defence’. The Sri Lankan Forces are an Army of Occupation in the Tamil areas. They are there to bully, harass and intimidate the Tamil people into submission, to accept multi-ethnic, multi-religios, multi-lingual, multi-cultural Sri Lanka, as a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. They are the main perpetrators of the extensive violation of human rights of the civilian population and this will continue as long as they are where they are.
9. Here is some information which Dr Konona would hope you would not have seen. I will do the home-work for you.
Sri Lanka buys arms from a number of countries. Let me deal with just one, Pakistan – not, by any means, the largest supplier. On 8 June 2006, the world-renown Jane’s Defence Weekly published information exclusively obtained by this award-winning international journal. Sri Lanka had asked Pakistan to facilitate the purchase of defence equipment worth around US $60 million, and had asked that their requests be given the ‘utmost priority’ amid, believe it or not, a ceasefire!.
The Journal went on to list the Sri Lankan Army’s shopping list (mind you, just from Pakistan). It included ten Baktar Shikan anti-tank guided missile weapon systems, 300 standard/tandem warheads and two training simulators; respectively worth US $1.5 million, US$4.5 million and US$120,000. The combined value of the military equipment was some US $ 20 million, with the Air Force requirements being a further US$ 38.1 million.
Unable to handle the weapons purchased (!), Sri Lanka had appealed to Pakistan to provide swift technical assistance for its T-55 main battle tanks and C-130 transport aircraft.
Unable to even service what had been bought, the GOSL wrote, ‘Since a number of MBTs [main battle tanks] and C-130s are in need of urgent technical repairs it is earnestly requested that this be given utmost priority and a suitable technical repair team be arranged to carry out immediate inspection…”
Just a week ago, 3 January 2007, a Pakistani newspaper which should know what is going on in that country, reported that Pakistan will sell military equipment and arms worth over US $ 100 million to Sri Lanka.
Here is a 3rd World country, supplying weapons to another 3rd World country on the verge of economic collapse, the money coming from tax-payers who can barely afford to live, and, the IC, ever willing to lend Sri Lanka any amount of money to ensure that Sri Lanka will sink deeper and deeper into debt and obligation.
I am releasing this information to the international community, if only to let Dr Kohona and his master, President Mahinda Rajapakse, know that people outside their Democratic Socialist Republic are well aware of what is going on. Sending people such as Dr Kohona to justify the unjustifiable, to keep uninformed people uninformed, will not work. It might be possible for Dr. Kohona’s Government to bluff some of the people some of the time, or even all of the people some of the time, but is unlikely to be able to bluff all of the people all of the time, as is obvious from some of the Peace rallies by the Sinhala people in the Sri Lankan South. Attempting to unleash Sinhala hoodlum violence, even headed by a Deputy Minister in the Government, or by yellow-robed hoodlums with not-so-cleanly-shaven heads, will also not work.
10. You refer to the Australian Federal Police raiding the homes of Tamils in Sydney and Melbourne a year ago. The Police did more. They confiscated the passports of people who are Australian citizens. That may be acceptable in a Police State but is it acceptable in a democracy which Australia says it is? If these people, almost all of them professional people of high standing in the community, have committed some offence, they must be charged in a proper court of law, but they cannot have their passports confiscated by the Police or any other authority. If that is done, then a democracy degenerates to a totalitarian state. If we in Australia are living in a totalitarian state, where the confiscation of passports and such like, is permissible, then we should be made aware of it.
I have just returned from the US where this same despicable game is being played. Basically it is to instill fear. This is what existed in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Idi Amin’s Uganda, and several other despotic regimes.
11. I might briefly comment on Dr.Kohona, whose activities in Sri Lanka are not unfamiliar to me. On 25 April 2006,a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the grounds of the Army Headquarters (!) in Colombo, throwing herself in front of the Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka. He was injured but survived.
Within hours, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces launched an air and artillery attack on Trincomalee on the opposite side of the island, some 150 km away. Tamil villages were indiscriminately bombed and shelled in an attack that continued for two full days.
Dr,Kohona, having admitted that the Sri Lankan Forces acted against Tamil villagers went on to justify it by claiming that it was “a fair reply” to the bomb blast in Colombo earlier in the day. May I point out that if one dons a uniform, be it a Tamil Tiger uniform or a Sri Lankan Army uniform, and takes on the right to kill or injure people, to be killed or injured is part of the ‘game’. That is an ‘occupational hazard’. What is unacceptable is that this should then be taken out on civilians.
Dr.Kohona is, amazingly, a lawyer, as is his President. Perhaps he should familiarise himself (and his President), with the 1949 Geneva Convention, in particular the 4th Convention which deals with civilians under enemy control, and the 1977 Additional Protocols, in particular the 2nd which deals with non-international conflicts. It might also be instructive if he familiarises himself with the International Criminal Court since that is where his Government would be heading if the expatriate Tamils and others concerned about what is going on in Sri Lanka, get their act together. Attacks by Sri Lankan Government Forces on civilians and their property is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 2(c) and 2(e). International humanitarian law does not permit warring parties to attack civilian targets and civilian lives. Dr.Kohona’s “retaliatory action”, his “fair reply”, on civilian targets in Trincomalee-Batticaloa on 25/4/06 and currently in full swing in the Batticaloa District, is a contravention international law, in addition to being a flagrant violation of the Cease Fire-Agreement which the government says is still in place.
The distinction between military and civilian targets, and the requirement to avoid military operations that cause disproportionate harm to civilians, are fundamental principles embodied in Article 48 and 51 in the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention.
Deliberate damage to civilian and civic property without military justification is forbidden under Article 52 of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention. The GOSL has signed all these international conventions.
Whether the GOSL admits it or not, Jaffna is under an Occupying Force. Under Article 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power has the duty of ensuring adequate food and medical supplies and protecting public health in the area under occupation. The closure of the only road access to the Jaffna Peninsula by the GOSL on 11 August 2006, and the consequent deprivation of food and medicines to half a million civilians in Jaffna, does have legal implications.
Some of the casualties of Dr. Kohona’s “fair reply”, were shown in an article I published after this outrage. The International Community can judge whether this is a ‘fair reply’ as Dr Kohona says it is.
Dr.Kohona’s visit is part of the extensive international campaign mounted by the GOSL to portray what is going on in Sri Lanka as a “ war against terrorism”. The greatest beneficiary from the “9/11” attack on the US has been the GOSL. I have dealt with this in numerous articles, all of which are on the net.
What has been going on in Sri Lanka for the past three decades is a liberation struggle of the Tamil “minority” to free itself from the Sinhalese-dominated regime in Colombo. If multi-ethnic, multilingual, multicultural, multireligous Sri Lanka is to be a Sinhala-Buddhist Nation (even incorporated in the Constitution since 1972), then there is no alternative to the establishment of a separate Tamil State. It is as simple as that.
What is going on today, in the East of Sri Lanka is essentially a genocidal campaign to wipe the Tamils from this once Tamil-speaking area, and replace them with Sinhalese from the South. This process is already far advanced. Earlier this month, some 80 families (Sinhalese) of ex-servicemen were taken under armed guard and settled in Trincomalee which had been “cleared” of Tamil and Muslim families by the Armed Forces. More, many more, are on their way.
I have not referred to some 300,000 Tamil and Muslim refugees created by Dr.Kohona’s government bombing and shelling the East in just the past few months. What we are looking at is a humanitarian crisis and this is what the Australian and other governments, and your Paper and the International media, should be focusing on.
The photographs below are what Kohona describes as “a fair
reply”. The International Community can make its own judgment.
Sri Lanka bombs its own People