Sharif Abdullah: Sri Lanka is a humanitarian disaster

Are the Tamils safe in Sri Lankan concentration camps? by aquaview.Sharif Abdullah writes:

I continue to monitor the lack of progress in Sri Lanka since the end of the war. Now, months after the crushing defeat of the Tamil Tigers as a military force, there are still hundreds of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians locked in detention camps, with no relief in sight.

Today, the trustworthy and independent International Crisis Group, quoting the International Herald Tribune, stated in part:

The guns have fallen silent in Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, but the deep wounds of ethnic animosity have not even begun to heal. An estimated 300,000 Tamil civilians remain essentially prisoners in internment camps run by a Sinhalese-dominated government.

To begin easing the deep mistrust between the communities, donor countries will have to pressure the government to be as serious about securing a just peace as it was earlier this year about winning the war.

(To read the entire article, click here.)

The promises of the Sri Lanka government to close the prison camps can now be seen for what they are: empty gestures to mollify the Sinhalese people into complacency. The government is not listening to the international community, donor countries, international NGO’s… the Rajapakse government is only listening to the sound of its own voice.)

(Believe me, if the Tamil Tigers still existed, I would be just as critical of them for using the innocent Tamil civilians as “human shields.” But, they don’t exist — the government has wiped them out. In a perverse way, the brutality of the Tigers acted as a check on the brutality of the SL Government.)

What is needed in Sri Lanka is the same thing that is needed in a dozen other countries with out of control governments (and/or out of control insurgent groups like the FARC, Taleban, etc)… in these situations, the people need a voice that is independent of the government and insurgents, one that is aligned with the deepest values of all of the people. People in the Sudan, in Zimbabwe, in Burma and in Sri Lanka need a nonviolent way to hold their violent rulers in check.

Stay tuned… I predict this situation will get much worse before it gets better…

(Sharif and I surmised that the government had no interest in peace.  Sadly, we were proven right.  Once again, the hopes of the Sri Lankan people have been dashed.)


  1. Shariff is right except for the Sri Lankan invented human shield theory.
    There was only one direction the civilian population was moving towards during the 2-year conflict.

    Making the minority tamils voiceless has been the 61-year old dream of consecutive sinhala regimes in Sri Lanka. Post 9/11 Bush era provided an opportunity for Rajapakse family to enforce an unforeseen blackout and indiscriminately attack tamil villages continuously for the past two years.
    Maritime ambitions of the peaceful rise and ambivalent malabar-lead foreign policy helped Sri Lanka carry out a mass carnage on its minority group.

    Continuous militarization and colonization of tamil areas are clear indication of the direction of the government.

    Unlike in Swat Valley or any other conflicts, racism played the major role in Sri Lankan humanitarian disaster.

    It is sad the modern world witnesses the tragedy of grand proportion perpetrated by a racist government in the 21st century.

    • “Shariff is right except for the Sri Lankan invented human shield theory.”

      First, let me say that I agree with you 100% about the Rajapakse administration using the post 9/11 Bush era to its advantage. Rajapakse jumped on that bandwagon with everything he had.

      As to the “human shield theory,” eyewitnesses and U.S. satellite images say otherwise. And it’s not the first time the LTTE had used human shields– they did so in 1996 when Jaffna fell, and it cost them dearly in popularity with the Tamil people for some time. None of the combatants in this war have clean hands– all (with the possible exception of some of the village home guards) have committed atrocities in the name of a fictional cause masking their own lust for power. And that includes not only the two major combatants, GOSL & LTTE, but also the Karuna faction and pro-government Tamil militias such as PLOTE and EPDP.

      Still, what most people fail to understand is that the Sinhala-Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka is just a sideshow. The real conflict, though largely hidden, is between the traditional Sinhalese leadership– the village headmen and the monks– as represented by the SLFP, and the “new” Sinhalese trading class that gained power under the Brits as represented by the UNP. These two are struggling, not for domination over the Tamils, but for domination over the Sinhalese majority. Under the (British-imposed) unitary system, who controls the majority controls the nation– so why should they care about the Sri Lankan Tamil, Moor, Estate Tamil, or Burgher minorities anyway?

      Much like Bush used Al Queda as an excuse for eliminating a host of civil rights in the U.S., both Sinhalese leaderships have used the Tamil “problem” (as they call it) to force their will on the Sinhalese people– and to try to eliminate their adversaries from the political process. The ending of the war with the LTTE (brutally, failing to accept the surrender even of its forced conscripts) signals that Rajapakse thinks he’s won the war for the Sinhalese as well. And based on reports from the Sinhalese community, he may be right.

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