Sri Lanka's Continued Ethnic Cleansing ...
- after Tamil Armed Resistance Ended on 17 May 2009
- the Record Speaks...
Colombo’s order to the Red Cross to cut back its work at
Tamil internment camps is an outrage. The world must boycott Sri
Lanka until it starts releasing detainees
London Times Editorial,
10 July 2009
There is something despicable about forcing doctors to lie about war
crimes. By their calling, doctors are committed to relieving human
suffering, to helping the sick and preventing disease. It is therefore
particularly disturbing to see the five doctors who remained with the
besieged Tamil civilians as the Sri Lankan Army closed in being paraded
before journalists to deny their earlier casualty reports. Men who
risked their lives to save lives are now being forced to take part in a
political charade to cover up the appalling suffering two months ago —
suffering that is still being inflicted on 300,000 Tamils interned in
detention camps in northern Sri Lanka.
As the army squeezed the Tamil Tigers into an ever smaller strip of
beach, the doctors were the only source of news about the slaughter
caused by the military’s indiscriminate shelling. The United Nations
found that more than 7,000 civilians were killed between January and
May. Subsequent aerial photographs of beach graves, revealed in The
Times, suggested that the figure was more than 20,000. World outrage
embarrassed the Colombo Government. The doctors were swiftly arrested
and nothing further was heard of them until Wednesday.
Their recantation, clearly made under duress, was as ludicrous as it was
humiliating. Mechanically rehearsed but clearly nervous, they
drastically reduced the death toll estimates, denied that a key hospital
had been shelled and insisted that they had been forced to exaggerate
the totals by Tiger fighters. In response the UN yesterday asserted
tersely that it stood by its figures.
Few people will be fooled by Colombo’s crude attempt at a propaganda
victory. For the Government took a far more sinister and callous step
yesterday when it ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross
to scale back its operations in Sri Lanka, leave the camps where it has
been monitoring conditions and halt its aid programmes. The need for
expatriate assistance was much less now than before, the Government
asserted. Sri Lankans were fully able to meet all the needs of those
detained in “welfare villages”.
The claim is an outrageous lie. Senior international aid figures said
yesterday that about 1,400 people a week are dying at one of the big
internment camps. Tamil civilians, rounded up after the government
victory on the pretext of a security need to weed out former fighters,
are suffering from hunger, disease, insanitary conditions, overcrowding
and the enforced separation of families. The Government has taken almost
no steps to free them. Indeed, a former Sri Lankan foreign minister has
accused it of a policy of deliberate “ethnic cleansing” to change the
Colombo’s order puts the Red Cross in a difficult position.
Historically, it has rarely spoken out — even about Nazi concentration
camps — so as not to jeopardise access to those in greatest danger. It
was the only aid agency allowed inside the war zone in the final stages
of the conflict. But its few statements angered the Government. Sri
Lanka wants no witnesses to what is now being done in these modern
If the Red Cross is forced to withdraw, however, the outside world
should step in. The Sri Lankan Government is awaiting a $1.9 billion
loan from the International Monetary Fund to address its
balance-of-payments crisis and postwar development. None of this money
should be paid until independent aid agencies are guaranteed access to
the Tamil camps and until Sri Lanka starts to release those detained.
Other world bodies — the Commonwealth, the United Nations and even world
cricketing organisations — should boycott Colombo until reconciliation
begins. A nation cannot run concentration camps and expect the world to