America, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam

Lessons for USA from Kosovo and their Application to the Sri Lankan War

S. Sivalingam

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 1999 (ID. 1999-05-02)
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Abbreviations

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

USA (US) - United States of America

OUTLINE

1. Introduction

2. We Do Not Ask You to Risk Your Soldiers to Protect Us

3. Please Stop Arming and Training The Oppressive Sri Lankan Army

4. Please Do Not Create A Monster You Cannot Control

5. What will happen in Sri Lanka?

6. Talk With Us, We Are A Reasonable People

1. Introduction

In order to end the Yugoslavian army and police atrocities against the minority Albanians in Kosovo, the United States of America (USA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in March 1999. Some American reporters and political commentators asked, "Why is our government risking American lives to help the minority Albanians while it is doing nothing in Sri Lanka where similar atrocities by the Sri Lankan police and army against minority Tamil civilians are going on for years?" (Actually the US government is selling weapons and training the oppressive Sri Lankan military in a low-key manner for the past two years.)

2. We Do Not Ask You to Risk Your Soldiers to Protect Us

Yes, we the minority Tamils of Sri Lanka, would very much like US, NATO and other countries to help us to live in peace in our own historical homeland with dignity and freedom. But, we do not ask the US or any nation to risk the lives of their young men and women to protect us. We will face the oppressing Sri Lankan police and military and protect our children, old people and the infirm with our own blood. We do not ask the US or any nation to give us a single penny to buy weapons and ammunition to protect our young, old and the infirm. We will buy arms and ammunition with our own sweat and labor. But...but...please do not sell arms or facilitate the sale of arms to the oppressive Sri Lankan government. Please do not train the oppressive Sri Lankan military.

3. Please Stop Arming and Training The Oppressive Sri Lankan Army

Continued arming and training of the oppressive Sri Lankan military could eliminate the only force, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), that stands between at least some restraint on the part of the Sri Lankan military and the "all out killing and raping" of minority Tamil civilians as it is now happening in Kosovo today (April 1999).

If, with the training and weapons from the US and other countries, the Sri Lankan military were to "finish off" the Tamil fighters (the LTTE), the Sri Lankan government will do exactly what the Yugoslavian government in doing now (April 1999)-Unleash a wave of terror against the Tamil minority, with the LTTE no longer there to blunt off the Sri Lankan military. This is not a scare story. We have suffered many times in the past at the hands of the Sri Lankan government. The "terror programs" unleashed against the Tamil minority in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983 attest to this (these massacres happened before the formation of LTTE or when LTTE was still a minor force). Speaking of one of these terror programs, Mr. Natanel Lorch, Israeli Charge d' Affaires to Sri Lanka during 1958 to 1960 said, "In Sri Lanka, in 1958, programs were committed against Tamils, barely reported in the western media, but on a scale and with a brutality which compare to the worst in the annals of the Jewish people." What happened in 1958 pale when compared to the massacres of 1983. Once the LTTE is "finished off" with the weapons and training provided by US and other countries, there will be massacres and rapes by the Sri Lankan army comparable to what is happening in Kosovo today (April 1999). Sri Lanka will not listen to reason or plea from the US or other countries. Did it listen to world condemnation in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983?

4. Please Do Not Create A Monster You Cannot Contain

Please do not create a monster you cannot contain. Even today, as the Sri Lankan foreign minister is making the rounds around the world seeking help for the Sri Lankan military,

(1) Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US refused to come before a US Congressional Committee discussing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. (The Sri Lankan government censors news, and severely restricts operations of international human rights groups and international relief agencies in order to keep the world blind of the true extent of murders, rape, torture and disappearances of Tamil civilians.)

(2) When US and some other countries expressed their dissatisfaction about the violence and fraud during the recent Provincial Council elections (January 1999), the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry rebuked them that it is their internal affair and that US and the other countries should keep quiet.

(3) The Sri Lankan government steadfastly refuses mediation offers from governments and individuals of impeccable integrity, saying that the war is their internal affair.

This Sri Lankan intransigence is happening at a time when Sri Lanka is actively seeking military assistance from foreign governments to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Will it listen to world opinion when there is no LTTE and the Sri Lankan government has no need for weapons and training from US and other countries? Again, we plead to you in the name of humanity, to please do not arm and train the oppressive Sri Lankan military. Please do not create a monster you cannot contain.

5. What will happen in Sri Lanka?

Today, LTTE is a well-organized military force capable of engaging the Sri Lankan military in conventional warfare. Battle of Killanoochi and the battle of Mullaitivu are two examples of LTTE capabilities. Because the Sri Lankan government needs foreign help to arm and train its military, and because LTTE is there to blunt off the Sri Lankan army, it has not gone on an all out "killing spree" as in Kosovo today (April 1999). What is happening today to the Tamil minority is worse than what happened to Kosovars before the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia did not go on an all-out killing and burning campaign until NATO bombing, but did it at a somewhat low key because it was afraid of NATO intervention. Once the NATO bombing started, that fear was gone and Yugoslavia started its all out murder-rape campaign. This is what will happen in Sri Lanka too. Now that it needs foreign military assistance to fight the LTTE, its actions against the Tamil minority is somewhat restrained but still worse than the Yugoslavian killings and raping prior to NATO bombing. Once it "finishes off" the LTTE with the weapons and training provided by US and other countries, Sri Lanka will no longer be restrained and what happened in Kosovo after the NATO bombing will happen in Sri Lanka too. If you have any doubt about this, please read eye-witness accounts of the blood-chilling atrocities committed against Tamils in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983 before the LTTE became a force to reckon with. Also read reports of murders, mass graves, rapes, tortures and disappearances of Tamil civilians during the tenure of the current Sri Lankan President Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga from Amnesty International and other reputable human rights organizations.

6. Talk With Us, We Are A Reasonable People

We know that great powers have strategic and economic interests far away from their shores. If you have strategic or economic concerns about the emergence of Tamil Eelam (homeland for the oppressed Tamil minority), please talk with us. You will find us to be a very reasonable people, partners in peace and prosperity.

Related Articles

Tamils Fought to Protect American Interests in Sri Lanka (TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 1999)

More articles on Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict

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