Human rights in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Tamil Civilians between the Jaws of Death

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2009 (ID. 2009-03-01)
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ICRC - International Committee of the Red Cross

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

UN - United Nations

War continues to rage in Mullaitivu between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), fighting for an independent country or self-determination for the Tamil minority of Sri Lanka. Reports issued by unbiased international humanitarian agencies say that LTTE is not allowing Tamil civilians to move out of their areas of control to Sri Lankan army controlled areas. As I said last month,  "This is unacceptable and inexcusable. We urge in the strongest terms that those civilians wanting to leave must be allowed to do so" [Reference 1].

In spite of the large number of Tamil civilian deaths and injuries, Sri Lankan military continues to bomb and shell LTTE held areas indiscriminately with no concern for Tamil civilian lives. Sri Lankan government's statement of "zero civilian casualty policy" is laughable but for the tragic situation Tamil civilians face and that our eyes are swelling with tears. Reports from unbiased human rights and relief agencies describe a horrifying situation in Mullaitivu. A letter dated January 13, 2009 sent to United Nations Secretary General by a group of religious leaders said, “in indiscriminate attacks babies in their mother’s wombs, infants, children, women and men, young and old, are being killed and wounded every day. Schools, hospitals, places of worship, civilian homes, whose security and safety are guaranteed by the constitution, are not spared in this aggressive war.” Humanitarian agencies have reported several hundred deaths and more injuries [All one has to do is read reports from unbiased news agencies such as the Associated Press or Reuter.] Near the end of January 2009, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that “hundreds” of civilians have been killed during the month and “scores” wounded.

Sri Lankan Government had repeatedly said that LTTE was not allowing civilians to leave areas under their control. Yet government spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle said, "The government cannot be responsible for the safety and security of civilians still living among LTTE terrorists"  (Associated Press; February 2, 2009). This is outrageous. If LTTE is not allowing civilians to leave, how can the government bomb and shell those civilians and then wash their hands of any responsibility for their blood?

According to Sri Lankan government, there are in Mullaitivu about 100,000 civilians and 600 LTTE cadres (from "foot soldiers" to senior leaders). [Others put the number of civilians to more than twice as much.] Even taking government figures, Sri Lankan military is willing to kill 166 Tamil civilians for every LTTE cadre. Is it reasonable? Is it acceptable? Should responsible parties be tried for war crimes?

Let us look at government spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle's statement,  "The government cannot be responsible for the safety and security of civilians still living among LTTE terrorists", from another perspective. Let us say a gunman is holding 166 innocent people in a building against their wish at gunpoint. Police surrounds the building and yells at the innocent people, "We cannot be responsible for your safety and security if you continue to stay with the gunman". Gives them 48 hours to get out the building, then shoots at the building indiscriminately killing many of the innocent people in order to "finish off" the gunman. Police officers in charge would surely be prosecuted in any civilized society.

Never in recent history has any government been willing to kill 166 innocent civilians for every combatant it wants to kill. Yet this is what is happening in Sri Lanka, and the world watches impotently. 

Is there relief for the innocent Tamil civilians? Who will help them? God, please...

[NOTE: Mullaitivu is also spelled as Mullaitheevu, Mullaithivu and Mullaiteevu.]


1. Fate of Sri Lankan Tamil Minority: Choice of Boiling Pot and Burning Stove (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 2009 (7 KB)


1. Search the Internet for Thanjai Nalankilli Tamil Sri Lanka or go the following web page

2. More articles on Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

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