There cannot be any plausible reasons to deny the fact of a genocidal agenda initiated by the Sri Lankan Governments immediately after the independence in 1948 against the Tamils living in the North and East. Sinhala majoritarianism, communalism and later adding Buddhism provided the keys to open up and launch several discriminatory measures which commenced from Sinhala Only Act of 1956 propelling the commissions of several massacres of innocent Tamil civilians from 1956. The said massacres were part and parcel of the genocidal agenda including the execution of number of racial killings and pogroms carried outby the Sri Lankan Security Forces in 1958, 1977, 1981, 1983 1987 and during the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] between 2006 to 2009.
It is learnt that more than 150 massacres were carried out against the Tamil civilians from 1948 to 2010 including cultural and structural genocide against the Tamis living in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The 30 year old war with LTTE from 1980 to 2009 ended with the massacres which harvested more than 70,000 Tamil civilians including the Mullivaikkal massacre on May 18, 2009 as estimated by the United Nations and also with about 65,000 disappeared.
The statement of Adam Dieng Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide confirms the role of deadly delay and inaction in preventing a looming genocide when he said that “It is our inaction and ineffectiveness in addressing warning signals that allows it to become a reality. Genocide does not happen by accident; it is deliberate with warning signals and precursors.”
In Sri Lanka. the genocide of Tamils commenced in 1948 and is continuing unhindered, now in the form of structural genocide including cultural genocide.
In Sri Lanka, the genocide against the Tamils was aided and abetted by some countries with supply of arms and logistical support which encouraged Sri Lanka, thereby the said countries played complicit roles when the International Community including United Nations maintained deadly silence.
In the war; India, Pakistan and Iran provided military assistance and logistical support which enthused Sri Lanka to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity etc. with no feeling of guilt
Most of the western powers also remained quiet and adopted a passive and complicit approach. The United Nations and Security Council were notoriously deaf, dumb and blind” as commented by Toronto Star Columnist Rosie Dimanno who also further stated that “In Sri Lanka United Nations retreated into craven silence and looked the other way that emboldened war criminals to ply their vicious trade.”
The UN and Security Council’s inaction was accepted by the UN Secretary General HE Antonio Guterres in 2018 when he stated that “We are still repeating rather than preventing and acting only when it is often too late. We must do more to respond early and keep violence from escalating. One such case may be Myanmar.”
Sri Lanka after this brutal genocide of this century still remains neither accounted for nor punished by the protectors of human rights upholders of peace and security. Adding insult to injury, the perpetrators of alleged genocidal war crimes are currently holding the reins of power with no visible threat to their full grip and hold on the executive, legislature and judiciary. Consequently, the victims of war have been abandoned to look after and fend for themselves without any hopes for accountability and justice, even adequate reparations.
Madam Jasmin Sooka, Director of International Truth and Justice Project in her report in 2014 openly stated the unaddressed culpability of Sri Lankan Governments when she commented that “Widespread and systematic violations by Sri Lankan Security Forces occur in a manner that indicated a coordinated system plan approved by the highest level of Governments from 2009-2014.
The UN Resolutions passed by UNHRC on 31st October 2015 gave some hopes for the victims but Sri Lanka’s usual tactics of dilly-dallying and evasions appear to be stalling the implementation of UNHRC Resolutions. The only option for the UN is to set up an External Special Investigative Mechanism ensuring impartial investigations to uphold accountability and justice for the victims while recommending and applying sanctions against Sri Lanka which has so far ignored the recommendations of the UNHRC continuously and prolonging the woes of Tamil victims. The current rule of alleged war criminals in Sri Lanka who being the alleged perpetrators will spare no efforts to keep accountability and justice farther and farther and at bay.
It has to be stated that Mullivaikkal genocide is not the end of genocide against the Tamils in Sri Lanka viewing the structure of Sri Lankan Governments with 99% of Sinhalese serving in the security forces coupled with the states’ militarization and Sinhalization agenda when about 300.000 Sinhalese security forces are stationed in the North and East of Sri Lanka which affords the opportunities to continue commissions of genocidal crimes against the Tamil civilians.
With about eight UN and UN Special Rapporteur’s Report between 2011-2016 in the custody of UN, there is no convincing reason for the UN and the Security Council to further delay initiating appropriate measures against Sri Lanka and forcing it to implement all the Recommendations of the Resolutions not merely to uphold accountability, justice and rule of law but also to ensure and reinforce the credibility and confidence in its entrusted role to take steps to maintain peace and security as prescribed in their Charters.
Furthermore, it is suggested that UN and Security Council consider incorporating special powers to deal with a hostile situation developing in a UN member state which targets minorities who are facing linguistic, cultural, racial and religious discrimination in the hands of its own Government.
In addition, UN and Security Council should consider incorporating provisions in their Charters to act promptly when a genocide is in progress in any member state and deploy UN Special Security Force to prevent and nip it in the bud. Furthermore, a failure or noncompliance of its Resolutions and Recommendations by any member state should be swiftly followed with punitive measures like expulsion from the UN, Security Council UNHRC and UN Agencies.
The massive popular protests of Sri Lanka’s ordinary citizens affected by the present government both politically and economically without the involvement of political parties is something unheard in the history of Sri Lanka when the President and Prime Minister were forced to confine themselves within their official residences and the Prime Minister has now retreated to a secluded residence in Trincomalee. Another refreshing feature is the presence of placards and slogans calling for accountability of Rajapakshas’ and justice for the Tamil victims of the war unleashed by Rajapakshas from 2006-2009, these moments of wisdom realized and awakening of the protesters mostly Sinhalese must be seized by the politicians in the North and South to work unitedly for a permanent political settlement of the 65 years old ethnic problem. It is hoped that the political parties and their leaders abandon their racist and communal approaches including parochial interests in the festering issues now facing Sri Lanka.
In this respect, it is just and correct to state that all Sri Lankan citizens view the Mullivaikal massacre as lessons to be learnt which should never be allowed to be repeated for the
self interests of all politicians. It is also better late than never for the UN and the International Community to recognize the genocidal killings of more than 150.000 Tamil civilians particularly the 70,000 citizens killed in 2009 by the Sri Lankan security forces as pure genocide to justify its role as custodian of peace and security for the citizens of the world.
The war crimes and crimes against humanity now being openly committed by Russia in its current war with Ukraine is yet another instance of the failure of the UN and Security Council which could have been prevented by them with proper initiatives.
Thambu Kanagasabai LLM London, Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.