Extermination of Eelam Tamils of Vanni in May 2009 by Sri-Lankan Sinhala Government was Genocide

By: Dr C P Thiagarajah

The genocide of Tamils that culminated in the mass murder of over 40000 civilians in May 2009 was well planned ahead by Mahinda Rajapakse (MR) as early as the latter part of 2008. The American ambassador Robert Blake (at the time President Obama was newly elected to office), Japan the European Union, Norway and India would have been quite aware of it as they had provided military help and advice regarding the on coming military onslaught on the LTTE. Having well equipped themselves with heavy and weapons of mass destruction the Sinhalese were waiting for a lame excuse to tear away the five year old Peace Agreement between the LTTE and the government against all international protocol and start a war. It is important to note that peace agreement was brokered by Norway and the other aid giving nations, EU, Japan, USA in 2002. Mavilaru water Tank dispute in the East was the trigger. Mahinda Rajapakse sent about 40000 of its armed forces against the de-facto/de-jure government of the LTTE that had reigned in Vanni for nearly two decades. The whole world knew about it.

The war started was a communal war from the start as the victims of the war were 100 % ethnic Tamils. It was the brain child of a chauvinistic regime-a military solution for a political problem that was at equilibrium by military balance of both parties. The battle ground chosen was the Traditional Homeland (TH) of the Tamils of North and East. Hence the fight was in reality not against the LTTE as the government had been telling the world. The fact was that there were only 8000 tiger cadres and such a small number would have been easily apprehended through military tactics by the army without a war that destroyed the basic human rights of an entire Tamil population. They demolished an entire civilization of the Vanni Tamils. The war was therefore indirectly directed to scorch the earth and the Tamil inhabitants, which supported the LTTE government, even at the cost of a genocide crime.

As shown by the blue arrows in the diagram of Vanni in Northern Sri-Lanka below the army surrounded LTTE de-jure government strong hold of Vanni with 40000 soldiers and gave no chance for the 400000 Tamil civilians inhabitants (mono-ethnic) to escape from the oncoming war. There were shelling, cannon firing, aerial bombarding etc in all three directions in order to drive the citizens and the LTTE towards Mullivaikal in Nandhikadal lagoon in the Eastern coast. They were herded from one ‘No Fire Zone (NFZ) to another until they reached the third one in Mullivaikal where the ultimate genocide of 40000 civilians in a sense were executed. These no fire zones were unilaterally declared by the Sinhala government to entice the civilian to enter the zone with the hope of safety which in fact turned out to be an all fire zone as history recorded it. Article 1 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG), adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 states that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law and that the UN member states who are signatories will protect those subjected to genocide and punish the perpetrators. Logically Sri-Lanka should be prosecuted for genocide.

This is how Human Rights Watch a non governmental organisation charity recorded the treachery of the Sri-Lankan Sinhala government in January 2009 . “Many of the civilian deaths reported in the past month have occurred in an area that the Sri Lankan government has declared to be a “safe zone.” On January 21, the Sri Lankan armed forces unilaterally declared a 35-square-kilometer “safe zone” for civilians north of the A35 road between Udayarkattu junction and the Manjal Palam (Yellow Bridge) in Mullativu district. The Sri Lankan Air Force dropped leaflets appealing to civilians to move into the safe zone as soon as possible. During the next days, several thousand people gathered in a large playground located just north of the A35 in the safe zone. The playground also functioned as a food distribution center for the local government agent (GA) and international organizations. Several people located in or around the GA food distribution center told Human Rights Watch that, despite the army declaration of a safe zone in the area, the area was subjected to heavy shelling from SLA positions in the period January 22-29, which killed and injured hundreds of people”.

This is how Gordon Weiss, a UN spokesman in Sri Lanka reported on the war on 4th February 2009’ “The Puthukudiyiruppu hospital has been under heavy artillery fire for about 18 hours now, and cluster bombs were used this morning. What we are saying is that there have been clear breaches of humanitarian law here. Both sides had the capability to fire cluster bombs, which can be launched from the ground or the air, but it was not clear which was responsible. However the government forces were conducting air strikes on targets within about 1,000 metres of the hospital in Puthukudiyiruppu”. In terms of international war laws hospitals should not be targets of war. This wanton attack on a hospital tantamount to war crime.

It was genocide indeed that happened as opined by legal and HR activists. This dirty move of the Sinhala government is against Article 2 of the genocide convention. It states that genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:


    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The UN had a responsibility to prevent this genocide. Ban Ki Mun abdicated this responsibility when he agreed to withdraw the UN staff from the Tamil Homeland on the request of the aggressive Sinhalese politicians in power. Such binding to offer protection to the Tamils was bestowed under UN Security Council Resolution 1674 adopted on 28 April 2006. It commits the Council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict and to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Having miserably failed in his duty to prevent genocide in Sri-Lanka, Ban Ki Mun appointed a Panel of Experts (POE) to produce a report on the last stages of the war under pressure from Human Rights activists. The report was released on 31 March 2011. The POE itself criticised the UN for failing to protect the civilians and concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity did occur in the war in May 2009.

It had been shown that the Sinhalese have committed all those criminal acts listed in Article 3 of the CPPCG. They are the following:

    (a) Genocide;
    (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    (e) Complicity in genocide.

Article 4 states that persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

The perpetrators of this evil in this 21 century the Sinhala government of Sri-Lanka under MR are trying all sorts of trickery to wriggle out of the dastardly crime. MR is keeping two infamous Tamils in the cabinet who had criminal accusations behind them to show the world that Tamils are behind him in the last war. This is not the truth.

The UN HR Commissioner has indicated to hold an international investigation following the POE report. The report has elicited that the casualties were high and the methods used to kill were cruel. However, the Sinhala government using the power of a member country of the UN is attempting to deflect these charges by appointing its own incredible commissions. The latest attempt is the LLRC report which had been described in the web Dawn.com on 10 February 2012 by Frances Harrison a former BBC foreign correspondent who worked in Sri Lanka and Iran as “a flawed inquiry into the war but Alice in Wonderland-like they seemed to blame everything on the Tigers and completely exonerate their own security forces”. However, a US State Department report has originally suggested that the actual casualty figures were probably much higher than the UN’s official estimates and that significant numbers of casualties were not recorded. Gordon Weiss, a former UN official has claimed that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the war.

On the contrary, ethnic Sinhalese who controls the government by virtue of their majority status, like Rajiva Wijesinha the permanent secretary in Sri Lanka's ministry of disaster management and human rights, understated the number of the genocide victims. He said that altogether 3,000 to 5,000 civilians may have been killed during the same period. Quite ridiculously Rohan Gunaratna, a self proclaimed international terrorism expert puts the number of civilian casualties at 1,400. The height of cheek is that the Sinhalese President said immediately after the war that the government rescued the Tamil population without the loss of a single life. There seems to be no end to lies and deceit on the side of the Sinhalese government.

Understandably therefore the Tamil survivors also want the truth acknowledged before they can move on with their shattered lives. Without the truth, reconciliation and forgiveness are simply not possible and the grievances that led to conflict in the first place remain dangerously unresolved. If the present criminal regime is adequately punished by the UN the Tamils may get their self determination rights and could live in their Traditional Homelands with peace and prosperity.

Genocide scholars such as Gregory Stanton have postulated that conditions and acts that often occur before, during, and after genocide—such as dehumanization of victim groups, strong organization of genocidal groups, and denial of genocide by its perpetrators—can be identified and actions taken to stop genocides before they happen (in future).

To date all international prosecutions of genocide, the Rwandan Genocide and the Srebrenica Genocide, have been by ad hoc international tribunals. The International Criminal Court came into existence in 2002 and it has the authority to try people from the states that have signed the treaty, but to date it has not tried anyone. Sri-Lanka had not signed the treaty but acceded it on 12 October 1950. Hence it has to be snared in some other way decided by the UN for the horrendous crime it had committed defying all humanitarian laws. A mockery of Justice.

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Comments (1)
i support eelam. fact is for all their inventivness and resourcefullness the ltte failed to read the situation on the world stage after 9/11. giving up power sharing agreement, closing sluice gate, allowing election of MR. then ltte tried to fight conventional war it could not win. 8 k or 15 k fighters it dont matter. while gosl raise divisions ltte could not match these numbers. i thought they were smart but maybe arrogance set in. with the numbers they had they could have prevailed to this day in a asymetrical setting. not head on. i used to admire annai. now... may eelam be free soon
cessch from USA on Feb 27, 2012 2:52:24 GMT