Sri Lanka: a question of credibility

If we’re to believe the Sri Lankan military, they’ve killed no civilians during their offensive against the opposition Tamil Tigers in recent months.  They claim that the security forces have only killed Tiger fighters.  However, the military itself admitted that it’s become harder to distinguish between civilians and the Tigers, since the Tigers have, according to the military, shed their uniforms for civilian clothes.  AI has reported that the military has used heavy artillery in indiscriminate attacks causing civilian casualties.  The Sri Lankan government doesn’t help its credibility in making these kinds of claims.

The Tigers can’t exactly lay claim to great credibility either, though.  They announced a unilateral ceasefire a week ago but last Thursday, said that their gunboats had attacked the Sri Lankan navy.  What happened to their ceasefire?  The Tigers yesterday said today that they were ready to engage in a process to bring about a ceasefire; if that happened, would the Tigers observe it anymore than the one they announced themselves?

I’m grateful that the Sri Lankan military hasn’t yet launched an all-out offensive to reconquer the remaining Tiger-held territory, since I can’t see how they could do that without causing massive casualties among the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped by the Tigers in the war zone.  There are a number of steps each side should take immediately, if we’re to avoid these casualties.  The steps are laid out in an urgent action appeal issued by AI last Friday.  Please read that appeal to see what AI is calling for from both sides.  Please also consider writing to the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE as the appeal requests.

One final note:  today is World Press Freedom Day and J.S. Tissainayagam remains unjustly imprisoned in a Sri Lankan prison simply for his journalistic activities.  Please visit the AIUSA website and write to the Sri Lankan government on his behalf.  He should be released immediately and unconditionally.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

18 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: a question of credibility

  1. Since early yesterday – May2, 2009 – reports and allegations are flooding the internet that Sri Lankan armed forces have bombed a hospital in the No Fire Zone.
    Maybe they did maybe they didn’t – nobody knows for certain since the people who claim it happened or the ones who deny they did it, have vested interest.

    It’s highly unlikely that the Sri Lankan military did this, for the following reasons. For the longest period in this civil war, Sri Lanka hadn’t done well on the battlefield and even when they had success and were about to deal a crushing blow to the Tamil Tigers a.k.a LTTE, India or some other nation came to the rebel rescue thereby setting the military back. Finally, Sri Lanka has managed to re-capture the areas that were under rebel control and corner the terrorists into a small sliver of land. The Sri Lankan government has made many mistakes over the past thirty years and will make some in the future like most nations do. However, when you have remarkable success at this stage of the conflict, there is no reason to stoop down to low-level tactics like launching attacks on hospitals or civilians to secure victory.

    Secondly, the soldiers are sacrificing their lives to enable Tamil civilians to cross over to
    the government side and it’s the terrorists who are intentionally firing at the innocent civilians when they try to escape. Let’s also not forget that the rebels are holding the civilians hostage not because they love or care for them – it’s just to save the lives of the remaining Tigers. Under these circumstances, trying to convince even some terrorist bias media that the military launched an attack on a hospital should be a pretty hard sell.

    The Sri Lankan government has nothing to gain by bombing a hospital, but to loose everything what they have gained so far and the Rajapakse administration is very mindful about it. It’s very hard to believe that Sri Lanka would make that kind of a thoughtless and strategical error.

    Tigers have also made crucial mistakes just by the way they have been treating the Tamil civilians whom they have held captive over the past several months. I don’t know of any other group of freedom fighters, who have treated the people who they assert to be fighting for so badly like the Tamil Tigers have.

    Hopefully, somebody will leak some satellite images giving the necessary information to figure out from where, when and how the attack happened.

  2. what credibility of Srilankan government? latest UN leaked UNsat picturs clearly shows who they rae? their denial to allow media and other independant observers shows who they are?

    LTTE is actualy calling independant observers. what does it means? LTTE got nothing to hide.

  3. I am planning to report to charity commision about "AI reporting". I am starting to doubt that whether AT is allowed to engage in this type of media works.

  4. Since early yesterday – May2, 2009 – reports and allegations are flooding the internet that Sri Lankan armed forces have bombed a hospital in the No Fire Zone.
    Maybe they did maybe they didn’t – nobody knows for certain since the people who claim it happened or the ones who deny they did it, have vested interest.

    It’s highly unlikely that the Sri Lankan military did this, for the following reasons. For the longest period in this civil war, Sri Lanka hadn’t done well on the battlefield and even when they had success and were about to deal a crushing blow to the Tamil Tigers a.k.a LTTE, India or some other nation came to the rebel rescue thereby setting the military back. Finally, Sri Lanka has managed to re-capture the areas that were under rebel control and corner the terrorists into a small sliver of land. The Sri Lankan government has made many mistakes over the past thirty years and will make some in the future like most nations do. However, when you have remarkable success at this stage of the conflict, there is no reason to stoop down to low-level tactics like launching attacks on hospitals or civilians to secure victory.

    Secondly, the soldiers are sacrificing their lives to enable Tamil civilians to cross over to
    the government side and it’s the terrorists who are intentionally firing at the innocent civilians when they try to escape. Let’s also not forget that the rebels are holding the civilians hostage not because they love or care for them – it’s just to save the lives of the remaining Tigers. Under these circumstances, trying to convince even some terrorist bias media that the military launched an attack on a hospital should be a pretty hard sell.

    The Sri Lankan government has nothing to gain by bombing a hospital, but to loose everything what they have gained so far and the Rajapakse administration is very mindful about it. It’s very hard to believe that Sri Lanka would make that kind of a thoughtless and strategical error.

    Tigers have also made crucial mistakes just by the way they have been treating the Tamil civilians whom they have held captive over the past several months. I don’t know of any other group of freedom fighters, who have treated the people who they assert to be fighting for so badly like the Tamil Tigers have.

    Hopefully, somebody will leak some satellite images giving the necessary information to figure out from where, when and how the attack happened.

  5. I think Mr.s.santhiramoulesan is one of the great soul sent monthly salary to LTTE for accumulating weapons (.. in a amount those can be used by all countries if 3rd world war starts now…) to kill own civilians who tries to flee from their control not being human shield for their self claimed SOLE savior leader…

    SL doing right thing by not allowing anyone into NFZ… rightly itz not guarantee that those ppl will not be used as 'hostages' to put more pressure on international community to take only only option as leaving the bloody LTTE head intact even after lost 15,555 kms area out of 15,600 kms apprx…

    these 'hostage' & shooting feeling civilians reports been assured by UN, many rescued ppl and as well as surrendered LTTE heads them self… so there is nothing to doubt abt it…

    We must ask LTTE terrors to lay down weapons or flee elsewhere leaving civilians free from war field & ask srilanka 100% assurance for tamils humanity & political rights in PRO-LTTE period….

    For me, the diaspora who sent millions of money to LTTE just to buy arms & LTTE head who always chose their 'striking positions' in middle of or nearby civilians area are 100% responsibility of 80,000 tamils lives we lost and 50,000 under threat now. Jaffna, Triconamalee, batticola ppl ignored LTTE & diaspora… now they leading peaceful life under their own tamil leadership in democratic way….

  6. what credibility of Srilankan government? latest UN leaked UNsat picturs clearly shows who they rae? their denial to allow media and other independant observers shows who they are?

    LTTE is actualy calling independant observers. what does it means? LTTE got nothing to hide.

  7. I am planning to report to charity commision about “AI reporting”. I am starting to doubt that whether AT is allowed to engage in this type of media works.

  8. I understand Amnesty's desire to be impartial, but in some cases one must make a stand and say that there are evils and lesser evils.

    In this case one party is using civilians as human shields. This is confirmed by neutral parties such as the Red Cross, UN, and fleeing civilians themselves. If one party in an armed conflict chooses to use such a tactic, then by definition the opposing party must have the ethical upper hand.

    If the SL military truly had no scruples about civilian deaths then this conflict would have finished weeks ago.

    Another philosophical point; the LTTE is currently conscripting from the civilian population (including girls as young as 11 according to the latest reports). If one party places a child with an AK47 into a conflict theatre and that child is then killed during conflict operations then who is responsible for the child's death- the puller of the trigger or the recruiting seargant? And is the child then considered a civilian or muilitary casulty of war

  9. I think Mr.s.santhiramoulesan is one of the great soul sent monthly salary to LTTE for accumulating weapons (.. in a amount those can be used by all countries if 3rd world war starts now…) to kill own civilians who tries to flee from their control not being human shield for their self claimed SOLE savior leader…

    SL doing right thing by not allowing anyone into NFZ… rightly itz not guarantee that those ppl will not be used as ‘hostages’ to put more pressure on international community to take only only option as leaving the bloody LTTE head intact even after lost 15,555 kms area out of 15,600 kms apprx…

    these ‘hostage’ & shooting feeling civilians reports been assured by UN, many rescued ppl and as well as surrendered LTTE heads them self… so there is nothing to doubt abt it…

    We must ask LTTE terrors to lay down weapons or flee elsewhere leaving civilians free from war field & ask srilanka 100% assurance for tamils humanity & political rights in PRO-LTTE period….

    For me, the diaspora who sent millions of money to LTTE just to buy arms & LTTE head who always chose their ‘striking positions’ in middle of or nearby civilians area are 100% responsibility of 80,000 tamils lives we lost and 50,000 under threat now. Jaffna, Triconamalee, batticola ppl ignored LTTE & diaspora… now they leading peaceful life under their own tamil leadership in democratic way….

  10. I understand Amnesty’s desire to be impartial, but in some cases one must make a stand and say that there are evils and lesser evils.

    In this case one party is using civilians as human shields. This is confirmed by neutral parties such as the Red Cross, UN, and fleeing civilians themselves. If one party in an armed conflict chooses to use such a tactic, then by definition the opposing party must have the ethical upper hand.

    If the SL military truly had no scruples about civilian deaths then this conflict would have finished weeks ago.

    Another philosophical point; the LTTE is currently conscripting from the civilian population (including girls as young as 11 according to the latest reports). If one party places a child with an AK47 into a conflict theatre and that child is then killed during conflict operations then who is responsible for the child’s death- the puller of the trigger or the recruiting seargant? And is the child then considered a civilian or muilitary casulty of war

  11. In response to Nihal's comments, it may be that the Sri Lankan government would have good reason not to bomb the hospital; however, that doesn't prove their innocence. It also has to be noted that the Sri Lankan government has refused to allow independent observers into the war zone, which makes verification of claims and counterclaims difficult, so that might be part of their thinking as well.

    In response to Mingo's comments, the Sri Lankan government is subject to the laws of war and human rights law, regardless of how many war crimes the LTTE may commit. I agree that all the child soldiers in the LTTE's ranks must be released immediately – this is something that AI has called for repeatedly. Please see our latest urgent action appeal issued last Friday.

  12. In response to Nihal’s comments, it may be that the Sri Lankan government would have good reason not to bomb the hospital; however, that doesn’t prove their innocence. It also has to be noted that the Sri Lankan government has refused to allow independent observers into the war zone, which makes verification of claims and counterclaims difficult, so that might be part of their thinking as well.

    In response to Mingo’s comments, the Sri Lankan government is subject to the laws of war and human rights law, regardless of how many war crimes the LTTE may commit. I agree that all the child soldiers in the LTTE’s ranks must be released immediately – this is something that AI has called for repeatedly. Please see our latest urgent action appeal issued last Friday.

  13. For decades the British and other Western governments turned a blind eye when the Tamil diaspora in their midst raised millions of pounds to fund the suicide bombings and atrocities of the LTTE. Where was the outrage when thousands of innocent civilians and political leaders, including Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka President Premadasa and scores of Tamil leaders, were murdered by these Tigers over the past 30 years? Did we hear any cry from any quarter condemning such terrorist acts?
    This sudden surge of sympathy for terrorists is baffling. Sri Lanka has had to fight its battles without any help. And it is astounding that Western governments are swayed by the propaganda of the Tamil diaspora instead of demanding that the LTTE release hostages and lay down their arms.
    The supporters of this criminal band, using the conflict to seek green pastures in the West, must be prosecuted for supporting a proscribed organisation. Despite their bleating and crocodile tears about civilian deaths none of them would go back to live in Prabhakaran's Eelam.

    George Rupesinghe
    Sydney, Australia

  14. For decades the British and other Western governments turned a blind eye when the Tamil diaspora in their midst raised millions of pounds to fund the suicide bombings and atrocities of the LTTE. Where was the outrage when thousands of innocent civilians and political leaders, including Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka President Premadasa and scores of Tamil leaders, were murdered by these Tigers over the past 30 years? Did we hear any cry from any quarter condemning such terrorist acts?
    This sudden surge of sympathy for terrorists is baffling. Sri Lanka has had to fight its battles without any help. And it is astounding that Western governments are swayed by the propaganda of the Tamil diaspora instead of demanding that the LTTE release hostages and lay down their arms.
    The supporters of this criminal band, using the conflict to seek green pastures in the West, must be prosecuted for supporting a proscribed organisation. Despite their bleating and crocodile tears about civilian deaths none of them would go back to live in Prabhakaran’s Eelam.

    George Rupesinghe
    Sydney, Australia

  15. To respond to George Rupasinghe's comment: AI, for one, has reported for years on the human rights abuses committed by the LTTE. To pick one example, see our document: "Sri Lanka: Correspondence with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on human rights abuses" – dated August 31, 1995. It's available on the AIUSA website, on the Sri Lanka page.

  16. To respond to George Rupasinghe’s comment: AI, for one, has reported for years on the human rights abuses committed by the LTTE. To pick one example, see our document: “Sri Lanka: Correspondence with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on human rights abuses” – dated August 31, 1995. It’s available on the AIUSA website, on the Sri Lanka page.

  17. Has any decent hunam being have given a bit of thought as to the cause of this tamil struggle for freedom. who is the masters behind it. the so called pure race sinhala paraya. has no originality in race what so ever.
    some mushrooms that have errupted in the early 1980's ( sinhala youths) calling tamils as tea pluckers . Rascals have no insight in to history.
    any way as a tamil originally from North and have been born and lived in the south i could only tell that sinhala Majority did not like the tamils doing well in srilanka. they used ethnic violence o in colombo, kandy and matale to drive them to north and east in a systematic fashion since 1958. finally when the revolution started now drive the ethnic tamils from their homeland.
    all sinhala parayas should live in that hell hole and not think of living else where in the globe.

  18. Has any decent hunam being have given a bit of thought as to the cause of this tamil struggle for freedom. who is the masters behind it. the so called pure race sinhala paraya. has no originality in race what so ever.
    some mushrooms that have errupted in the early 1980′s ( sinhala youths) calling tamils as tea pluckers . Rascals have no insight in to history.
    any way as a tamil originally from North and have been born and lived in the south i could only tell that sinhala Majority did not like the tamils doing well in srilanka. they used ethnic violence o in colombo, kandy and matale to drive them to north and east in a systematic fashion since 1958. finally when the revolution started now drive the ethnic tamils from their homeland.
    all sinhala parayas should live in that hell hole and not think of living else where in the globe.