Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Foreign Aid & Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka Conflict > Kampagne fur Menschenrechte in Sri Lanka und Tamil Eelam, 1996

Foreign Aid & Sri Lanka's  Military Expenditure

Kampagne fur Menschenrechte in Sri Lanka und Tamil Eelam
letter to Paris Aid Group November 1996

On the 18th November the 'Paris Aid Group' meeting for financial support to Sri Lanka will take place at the World Bank building in Paris, France. The extent of the power that this relatively unknown meeting has on the lives (and deaths) of the people on the island is difficult to exaggerate.

In April last year, despite protests from Human Rights groups such as ourselves '..the aid group reaffirmed its support to Sri Lanka's economic and social development by indicating financial support totalling about US $ 850 million'. During the 18 months since then, far from enjoying 'economic and social development' the Tamil people on the island have experienced the darkest period in their history.

In October 1995, one year ago, the 100% Sinhala Sri Lankan armed forces used unprecedented brutality to occupy Jaffna - the heartland of the Tamil people in the island. Supported by full scale bombardment by air, sea and land over 50,000 soldiers launched an all out attack on the densely populated Jaffna city. Fearing massive casualties nearly all of the Jaffna Tamils fled their homes.

Since the capture of an empty city would fit badly with the Sri Lankan government's propaganda that this 'war for peace' is to 'liberate the Tamil people from the clutches of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)' the armed forces tried every method possible to block all routes of escape. When the LTTE tried to defend the bridges to allow people to flee massive battles took place between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army. At the same time LTTE cadres created the military equivalent of a 'firewall' to slow down the Sri Lankan army's advance on Jaffna to allow the people enough time to flee the city. 676 LTTE cadres died in this operation. Although the Sri Lankan armed forces, with much pomp put up the Lion flag, signifying Sinhala supremacy, the British newspaper 'The Times' reported that it was a 'hollow victory' since approximately half a million Tamils had fled leaving Jaffna empty.

This terrible episode should show the real feelings of the Tamil people towards the Sri Lankan army and to the LTTE. The depth of the attachment that Jaffna Tamils had to their city is well known to anyone familiar with the island. The fact that they fled their beloved city leaving all their belongings to live in the jungle rather than live under the Sinhala occupying army shows how they feel about the Sri Lankan forces.

The Tamil people knew that the LTTE rejected the option of fighting the Sri Lankan occupying forces in Jaffna City because it was clear that there will be massive casualties to the civilian population. The people knew that instead the LTTE sacrificed 676 cadres simply to ensure that they had time to flee the advancing army. This demonstration of the depth of the connection between the LTTE and the Tamil people did not have a sobering effect on the Sri Lankan government. Exactly the opposite.

Using Jaffna city as their base the Sri Lankan forces launched a massive attack on the eastern part of the Jaffna peninsula and at the same time completely blocked all escape routes for the fleeing civilians. In this way they forced them to repopulate the now destroyed Jaffna City! When confronted with the fact that the Tamil people were fleeing their 'would be Sinhala liberators' the government made sure that Jaffna was forcibly repopulated so that there is someone there to be liberated!

The hundreds of thousands of Tamil people who had successfully escaped the Jaffna peninsula had to live in jungle areas without proper food and they were still being pursued by the armed forces. UNHCR report says that 850,000 Tamil people have been displaced in the early part of this year - this figure is greater than their figure for Somalia (300, 000) and even Rwanda (500,000).

Army occupied Jaffna city now is a big prison. From 8pm to 6am there is a shoot on sight curfew. Tamil people live in terror. Thousands of men and women are being held in detention, hundreds have disappeared during the last month. The banning of certain essential items (like boxes matches) which has been in force for many years in areas under the control of the LTTE has been now extended to army occupied Jaffna too.

Many Tamil girls in Jaffna are staying away from school terrified of abduction and rape by Sinhala soldiers. Army checkpoints are apparently the most dangerous places but many girls confess that merely the sight of a Sinhala soldier roaming around is enough to instil fear in them. Rape and murder is so widespread that one case even broke through to the Sinhala media recently. Kirushanthi, an 18 year old student was arrested at the Kaithady army check-post on October 7 at 1.30 p.m. on the orders of the army corporal who was in charge of the check-post at that time.

Worried that her daughter had not returned from school, her mother accompanied by the girl's brother and a next door neighbour had gone to the Kaithady army check-post during the evening to inquire about her missing daughter.

After denying any knowledge of the missing girl, the Sinhala soldiers at the check-post had then tied the hands of the three and had kept them in a cell. Then by about 10 PM in the night on that day the three were strangled by the soldiers using ropes. Their bodies were then taken to the near by Hindu Chemmani Cemetery where their bodies were buried in shallow graves by the soldiers. An hour later, at about 11 PM in the night, Kirushanthi was gang raped by the soldiers and after the ordeal she too was killed. Her body was later buried by the soldiers in the same cemetery. This case is only the tip of the iceberg.

The situation for people in detention camps and refugee camps are unbearable all over the Tamil majority north and east. Sinhala army doctors are even forcibly extracting blood from Tamil detainees and are sending them to army blood banks in the South to remedy the shortage of blood for the Sinhala soldiers fighting a war in the Tamil North and East provinces. Three Tamil youths from the camps recently died in the Vavuniya hospital after blood was extracted from them while in the camps.

Paris Aid Group's financial support for the war economy

The financial cost of continuing the war has also reached unprecedented levels increasing the budget deficit. British newspaper 'Financial Times' explains 'mass privatisation' of state enterprises on which the government has become 'more and more dependent' to raise money to 'finance the budget deficit' has fallen 'woefully short'. Under these conditions the possibility to continue the war depends almost exclusively on financial aid from the Paris Aid Group. The official estimated figure for the financial cost of the war is for 1996 is US $ 900 million which is 30% more than for 1995. It is obvious that an amount similar to the US $ 850 million that the PAG authorised last year will do very nicely indeed!

For the IMF/World Bank, Sri Lanka has for a long time being regarded as the model for the implementation of their economic policies in the Indian sub-continent. The amount of financial aid from the 'Paris Aid Group' is connected very much to how well the government of Sri Lanka implements these policies. Specially after 1977 when the 'free market' policies were explicitly put into place the aid from the World Bank hosted consortium became a significant factor in Sri Lanka's politics as well as economics.

The prescription of the World Bank/IMF is no secret. Cut social spending, privatise state enterprises etc. From 1977 onward, with the proliferation of the 'Free Trade Zones' and steady implementation of the other World Bank prescriptions, the aid to Sri Lanka steadily increased. There were other things taking place too. The authoritarianism of the government and the anti-democratic character of the state increased.

The treatment of the Tamil people became progressively worse. Military force was used more and more against the democratic resistance of the Tamil people. Tamil people took up arms to defend themselves. In 1983 the dramatic result of the Sinhala chauvinist politics of the major political parties, the racial riots in July took the lives of 2,000 Tamils. Even before 1983, for example during the period from 1977 - 1983 none of the financial aid reached the Tamil majority north and east of the island. After 1983, as the armed conflict steadily escalated the financial aid through the Paris Aid Group was seen by the Tamil people as active external support for the military repression that they faced.

Paris Aid Group and the politics of Sinhala chauvinism

Three things are happened concurrently.

1) The IMF/World Bank policies were implemented - the social spending was cut step by step - and Aid Group financing increases and stabilises at a high level.

2) The negative effects of the above measures are felt by the Sinhala poor and they expressed their opposition to it (the Tamil people opted for an independent state).

3) The conflict between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Tamil people escalated and the spending on the military steadily increased.

The spending on health decreased from 6.4% of state expenditure in 1977 to 0.94% in 1994! Spending on Education from 7% in 1979 to 3.7% in 1991 - we know this has reduced dramatically again this year but we do not have reliable figures. The military spending has increased from 2% in 1979 to approximately 25% in 1996!

In Sri Lankan the politics Sinhala chauvinism has successfully turned any conflict between social classes in Sinhala society into a common hatred against the Tamil people. The economic base of Sinhala chauvinism was constructed during the British colonial period - to a large extent through the super-exploitation of the Tamil plantation workers. Now, various social forces within Sinhala society wield this deep seated Sinhala chauvinist ideology with terrible effect. The intensity of the chauvinism against the Tamils has now reached a fever pitch with President Chandrika Kumaratunge's regime at the lead of it.

The following incident will give the reader a feel for it. Several months ago the LTTE launched a huge attack on an Sri Lankan army camp. The Sri Lankan armed forces found out before about this and were waiting for the LTTE cadres. Hundreds were killed. The majority of the cadres were women. The Sri Lankan soldiers ripped the clothes off the dead women and took photos of them. These photos (some of the women had a cloth thrown over them) were shown on prime time TV. It was clear from the photos on TV that the women had been stripped naked after they had died. The tragedy is that this perverse and brutal expression of triumphalism did not repulse the Sinhala people.

This level of racism means that all other political questions are subsumed by it. For example - look at the case of the electricity workers strike earlier this year. The selling off of the electricity board to a British company was opposed by most people. It was clear that if it happened, the effect would be similar to the experience of privatising Gas, the price of electricity would go up, workers would lose jobs and that the poorest people will be hit hardest. When the electricity board workers went on strike against the privatisation, and plunged the country into darkness, despite the hardship there was mass sympathy for the strikers demands. But to break the strike was quite simple.

The government accused that the LTTE was behind the strike - and for those who found that accusation a little too ridiculous they said that the strike will benefit only the LTTE and those who are on strike will effectively do a big service to the LTTE and that the strike will put into danger the lives of the 'brave Sinhala soldiers'.

The depth of the anti-Tamil feeling and the fear of being identified with the LTTE is so high that the strike was broken. If the Tamil question weren't there the government would have had to suffer the political consequences of the massive privatisation drive. They would have to face and deal with the inevitably powerful opposition. But by feeding the anti-Tamil racism the protests can be immobilised through fear and hatred. So in this way privatisation can be introduced by attacking the Tamil people.

The money from the Paris Aid Group will not only be the financial basis for continuing the war but it will be politically used by the regime to get support from the Sinhala people. It will show that the most powerful countries in the world support Sinhala nationalism. It will show that the Sinhalese have a free hand to deal with the Tamils as they please and whatever vicious the action they take will not undermine the support from the Paris Aid Group.

The Sinhala poor hate the privatisation plans proposed by the PAG and implemented by the Chandrika government. However opposing it would immediately bring from the government the accusation that the war drive is being undermined. So the war drive pushes the Sinhala masses to a position of silent acceptance of the massive privatisation package engineered by the World Bank/IMF. The more intense the war and the more intense the anti-Tamil racism is the stronger the argument becomes that they should not oppose the privatisation plans. On November 18th, if the PAG agrees to give a enough money to carry out the war it will be physical and spiritual nourishment for the Sinhala chauvinist monster in Sri Lanka.

Kampagne für Menschenrechte in Sri Lanka und Tamil Eelam, KMSLTE, Buchtstr 14, 2819 Bremen, Fax 0421 498 7276, Konto 17111 063 bei der Sparkasse Bremen, BLZ 290 501 01, Stichwort: Menschenrechte


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