Nirmala Rajasingam: The Sri Lankan government has won – let it stop fighting

To legitimise the LTTE's conduct now will be inimical to the Tamil interests

Share
Related Topics

The Sri Lankan government has won its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It should now suspend military action. The safety of Tamil civilians, who have suffered grievously in this war, should be its paramount objective. Any further military offensive in pursuit of the LTTE leadership should be secondary to the interests of civilian safety and welfare.

The world has watched aghast at the level of bloodshed and the horrific plight of the civilians who have now been under siege for months, being dragged around the Vanni jungles by a retreating LTTE. With insistent calls for a ceasefire from the international community, governments and humanitarian agencies, and criticisms of Sri Lanka in UN forums, the government hastens to wrap up its operations against the LTTE, but at what price?

It is publicly known that the LTTE is using the trapped population as human shields and is shooting and killing them when they try to flee. Does the government wish to mow down these hapless people who face lethal fire from both sides? The government has to exercise restraint in order to protect these Tamils, people that they call their citizens.

The government depicts a picture of relieved Tamil civilians escaping to government-controlled areas. It is true that the vast majority are fleeing LTTE control, but many are also fleeing indiscriminate fire by government forces, to areas where there is safety from attack, to find food, water and medical treatment.

Government claims that the army cut through to the No Fire Zone (NFZ) in its offensive three days ago without causing civilian casualties defy reason. The statements that the continued operations are purely for "hostage rescue" belie the actual situation on the ground, with huge civilian losses through indiscriminate fire. This is unacceptable and can only be described as war crimes.

The breakthrough by the government four days ago did give the civilians the first real chance to get to safety away from the conflict zone. But the government is relying on this as justification to press on ahead relentlessly, putting the remaining population left behind in the NFZ, estimated at being at least 50,000, at great risk.

The political ramifications of such further wanton bloodshed in the intractable ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka will be far-reaching and profound. The government must accept that this ethnic conflict will not be won on this battlefield by military means alone; it must understand the fact that indiscriminate armed action will leave indelible scars in the minds of the people it says it wishes to bring back into the common fold.

The international community sought access repeatedly yet permission for full access was not forthcoming.

Belatedly, the government has now sought humanitarian assistance, after months of keeping international help at bay on the spurious basis of "security".

Worse still, access to international media has been refused and even now independent estimates of the trapped population, and their conditions are not known to the world.

The government's opposition to much needed international assistance, backed by the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist lobby in Sri Lanka, borders on the xenophobic. With Tamil civilians streaming into government-controlled territory, what does the government fear from the world's media? The Tamil diaspora is grieving for its trapped brethren.

The Tiger lobby has been able to use this to raise the cry of genocide, to galvanise a significant section of the Tamil diaspora in support of the LTTE.

This lobby has paid scant attention to the atrocities committed by the LTTE against the very people it claims to lead. Instead it has used the plight of the trapped civilians to organise around a single cause, the survival of the LTTE leadership.

Any attempt to legitimise the LTTE's record and conduct at this point will be inimical to the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. A military solution to resolve the political problem of ethnic conflict was embraced with enthusiasm not just by the government, but even more so by the LTTE.

The LTTE's exclusivist Tamil nationalism and extreme militarism have led the Tamil community to this political dead-end. Its political and military aspirations are fundamentally opposed to a democratic political future for the Tamils and their peaceful cohabitation with other communities within a united Sri Lanka.

The writer is a Sri Lankan Tamil activist who lives in exile in London. She is currently a steering committee member of Sri Lanka Democracy Forum an international network of progressive diaspora voices

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Executive i...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: We Are Not Syriza; and the riddle of an imitation Sphinx in China

John Rentoul
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable