The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that Ms Rita Izsák Ndiaye, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issueson problems faced by minorities in various countries, is to visit Sri Lanka from 10 to 20 October 2016.
Her first three years term as the special Rapporteur started on 1st August 2011. She was given another three years on the same post in 2014.
Ms Ndiaye got abundant experience on the plight of ethnic minorities in countries where the regimes are ruthless towards the minorities and care less about their humanitarian aspect of their life. I watched a youtube presentation of Ms Rita Izsák-Ndiaye on 13 April, 2016 at an event at the UN headquarters in New York hosted by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, Kalpana Saroj Foundation and Foundation for Human Horizon, to commemorate the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar. She showed herself to be very knowledgeable on minority issues. Still waters run deep.I wish to remind Ms Ndiaye of Professor Gregory H. Stanton, author of the eight (8) steps to genocide, conclusion on a final prescription to stop genocide, “The strongest antidote to genocide is justice”.
Perhaps she may not adequately know the background of Sri-Lanka and how the Tamils were being treated by all successive ruthless, xenophobic Sinhala regimes since independence from the British in Feb 1948. ColonialistBritain as the leading country for democracy treated all Sri-Lankan nationalities on equal basis. They believed in the legal dictum that law must not only be done but appears to be done
Once in power the Sinhalese began the Nazis policy of supremacy of the majority. Incidentally, the Sinhalese claim they are an Aryan race as compared to the Tamils who are classified as Dravidian by Archaeologists.
Mr Callum Macrae’s Channel 4 Video “Killings Fields of Sri-Lanka” portrayed thoroughly the brutality of the Sinhalese in the last war against the LTTE during January to May 2009. It dealt in detail how wantonly the Sinhala forces blitzed the Vanni Tamil population in the “No Fire Zones” where they were herded in by the Sinhala armed forces with bombs, shells and artillery firing under the guise of killing terrorist. The world went aghast witnessing the Sinhala armed forces committing the monstrous war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last war with the LTTE. Manydemocratic peace loving population in the world wondered whether the UN or UNHRC existed as a world watch dog against crimes committed by racist regimes! The Sinhala forces behaved as though they were the primeval king of all they surveyed.Summarily kill anybody who are non-Sinhala.
Channel 4 news by Jonathan Miller on Tuesday 18 May 2010 portrayed the truth behind the death of so any Tamil civilians. “Channel 4 News obtained video evidence, after authenticated by the United Nations, purporting to show point-blank executions of Tamils by uniformed Sri Lankan soldiers. For the same report a senior army commander and a frontline soldier had told Channel 4 News that such killings were indeed ordered from the top.One frontline soldier said: “Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone”.And a senior Sri Lankan army commander said: “Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off.
“I don’t think we wanted to keep any hard-core elements, so they were done away with. It is clear that such orders were, in fact, received from the top”. Obviously, if an Independent International Inquiry (II) is held under the auspicious of the UN these ex-soldiers may give their evidence to bring out the truth.
Postwar, it has been alleged the Sinhala government is trying all weapons in its armory to hide from the UN their true intention which is racial supremacy of the Sinhala race and the obliteration of the Tamil’s Homeland of North and East (TH).Ms Ndiaye have to be vigilant not to be deceived by any reports prepared by the Sinhalese who were also the perpetrators of the war crimes in the last war in May 2009.
Recently, Sri-Lanka’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded the examination of the combined tenth to seventeenth periodic report of Sri Lanka on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Mr Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, a Sinhalese who was appointed by the former president Mr Mahinda Rajapakse a war crime suspect, presented this report to the UNHRC 0n 16 August 2016. He pleaded that everything in Sri-Lanaka is smooth now.
However, Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Sri Lanka, congratulated the Government for its commitment to peace in Sri Lanka, and urged it to pay due attention to the situation of racial discrimination. He pointed out that it was important to take lessons from the past in order to ensure non-repetition.
The congratulation heaped on the Sinhalese cabinet, is in vain and preposterous. What this government has managed to execute was to restore a sense of democracy that was repressed to the minorities by the previous government. This government is also ethnocentric and did not restore full-fledged democracy to the Tamils. The continued reluctance of Sinhala governments to grant the legitimate democratic rights and instead continuing repression of the Tamils had pushed them to a point of no return.
At this juncture, restoration of full democratic freedom is only possible under a new form of state constitution that recognises the two Nation concept-Tamil speaking and Sinhala speaking. Old history books stated that two nations existed for a long time.Transgression of democracy stared only after the ascension of successive Sinhala regimes after independence in February 1948 and before.
The Tamils minority still suffers from the hellish war crimes of the previous regimes. Their memories still linger with nightmares of the Sinhala tyranny. During the final assault against the LTTE, the Sri-Lankan government ordered the armed forces to surround the Vanni homeland of Tamils with 40000 Sinhala armed troops and drive out the entire Tamil population to Mullivaikal over a period of nearly three months. For the entire three months the besiegedpopulation was never afforded any humanitarian relief such as providing the moving population of 300000 civilians, food, water and milk to children. This was a revengeful action of giving total punishment.
For example, as reported in UN reports the Sinhala forces even attacked UN humanitarian facilities and denied humanitarian assistance to those in the protected zone. The forces intensified in breaking the war laws of the UN by use of torture and sexual abuse, forced disappearances, and the unlawful killings of LTTE cadres and Tamil civilians who had surrendered to the army.
The UN report on the last phases of the war estimated nearly 40,000 civilians were killed. This is the zenith of the ‘Sinhala genocide of Tamils’ policy. All world citizenry should be well apprised of this scenario of the Tamil genocidesby successive Sinhala governments. A good report by an independent person will do justice to the victims who have endured this repression for over 65 years after independence.
Sinhala antagonism to the Tamils has been in Sri-Lanka for centuries. Sinhala animosity to the Tamils is laden with hatred. Historically, due to false belief in their history as written in their ‘holy’ history book Mahawamsa the Sinhalese were convinced they were an Aryan race and that they were given the honoraryduty of preserving Theraveda Buddhism by Lord Buddha himself. This is a counterfeit conclusion. Lord Buddha was a Hindu by birth and hence his philosophies had a Hindu background. To substantiate this we can point out that he returned to his son Rahula after attaining enlightenment to teach his son his philosophy. What he might have told might be that all Sri-Lankans should preserve his philosophy that included Tamil Buddhistsas well. It is the view of many observers that Mahawamsa is the root cause for all troubles in Sri-Lanka. DNA studies disproves Mahawamsa’s claim of the origin of the Sinhala race.
According to extensive genetic studies the Sinhala race has more DNA connection to South Indian Tamils, about 60-70%, than the Sri-Lankan Tamils.Modern science disproof the Sinhala claim of Aryan origin. The Sri-Lanka Tamils are probably descended from the original inhabitants of Mohande Jaro-Harappa civilization about 1600 years BC, long before the advent of the Sinhalese to Sri-Lanka in 300 BC eg the Nagas and Yakkas.
Reverting to the present history, we note that when the British decided to grant freedom to Ceylon, in February 1948, the Sinhalese leader of the State Council gave verbal assurances to hoodwink the Tamils into a false sense of security. They assured the Tamilsthat the minorities need not fear any harm from the Sinhala majority. This is the first diabolical lie of a Sinhalese Mr D S Senanayake, who was the leading spokesman for the Sinhalese at that time. He did not even have an academic qualification. He wanted to trick the Tamils by giving verbal assurances to win over the Tamils who were demanding for a set of constitution that will give them security in their TH and not a unitary constitution.
The new 1948 independence constitution was based on the recommendations by the Soulbury Commission. There were no safeguards for the minorities except an ineffective clause 29(2) that was not stringent to prevent enactment of any laws that would discriminate against any group of people. In any case the Sinhalese made a mockery of the legal safety net clause by autocratically withdrawing it in their new constitution later on in the history of Sri-Lanka,
Immediately after the first election in independent Ceylon, in 1948, D.S. Senanayake, became the first lay prime minister. At the time of Independence, Sri-Lankan population was 8 millions, of which roughly the Sinhalese constituted 66%, Tamils 26%, Muslims 7%. The balance, 1%, was made up of all other communities of which Burghers descended from the Portuguese and Dutch were prominent. There is a small proportion was made up of the original indigenous people called Veddahs. But now they have almost mixed with the Sinhalese.
The first parliamentary election brought many Tamil MPs from the Tamils of Indian origin (up-country Tamils) also. This infuriated D S Senanayake. He must have wished and thought Sri-Lanka should belong to Sinhala only and no other race should be allowed to take active part in running it other than the Sinhalese. All succeeding Sinhala politicians had this crazythought. Their wrong concept of democracy resulted in genocide of the Tamils in May 2009. Many Human Rights activist, including Professor Francis Boyle of USA belief that this mental construct in racial supremacy is the casus belli for genocide.
Consequently D S Senanayake, contrary to the assurances given to the Tamils, passed the Ceylon Citizenship Act depriving citizenship to the Upcountry Tamils (over half the Tamil population) that lived and worked in the upcountry Tea estate for generations. This discriminatory law was followed by another such cruel one in the next year by the Ceylon Elections Amendment Act depriving voting rights to those Estate Tamils who constituted about 13% of the population.
This racially motivated political move was to reduce the Tamil’s voting power in the parliament. Thisis the first step in indirect population reduction of Tamils. A cunning move that wasthe forerunner to more cruel legislation by future Sinhala prime ministers and presidents. Presently, the reality in Sri-Lanka is that the Sinhalese will always be in control of power because of their majority position in Parliament. By articulating Sinhala racist policies citing Mahawamsa they ensured that a Sinhala by birth will be the president. This status quo is a caveat for the growth of healthy democracy.
Further, in pursuance of his racist policies, D.S. Senanayake launched massive colonization of the traditional Tamil homeland of the Northern and Eastern provinces with Sinhalese from the South. He planted undesirable Sinhalese ex-convicts and thugs along with poor peasants in Gal Oya, Allai, Kantalai, Pavatkulam and other places squeezing the Tamils out of their lands in an effort to deprive them of their Traditional Homeland of North and East Sri-Lanka that had a contiguous land mass and existed even during the time before the advent of Western Colonialist beginning with thePortuguese, the Dutch and ending with the British. Colonial rule lasted nearly 300 years and ended in Feb 1948 when independence was given by British. This cunning move of the Sinhalese reduced the population of Tamils in the Eastern Province by ten percent while increasing the Sinhalese population by fifteen percent. This is open Sinhalasisation of Tamil homeland.
As already stated the first political moves bylate prime minister D S Senanayake had racial and social implication to the TH. He set a land mark precedent. He openly violated Article I of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities that embodied 9 Articles.
- States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.
- States shall adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends.
The UN through experience and failures and trial and error, in protecting human rights of the minorities of the world brought in this declaration very late in 18 December 1992 only.
The Sinhalese knew that with the quick progression of Human Rights in the world, UN will bring in new legislations that will make it difficult for them to reduce the Tamil population in the future, and hence the Sinhalese moved faster than the UN and reduced the Tamil’s political strength in parliament and avoided any incrimination by the UN on a subsequent date.
D S Senanayake’s inaugural speech to the first batch of Sinhala colonist in Padavya was very rabble rousing. Padaviya is in the district of Anuradhapura, located on the border between the traditionally Tamil region and the Sinhala region in the North Central province of Sri Lanka.The speech had racist tones and warned the colony settlers to defend their allocated lands. “Today you are brought here and given a plot of land. You have been uprooted from your village. You are like a piece of driftwood in the ocean; but remember that one day the whole country will look up to you. The final battle for the Sinhala people will be fought on the plains of Padaviya. You are men and women who will carry this island’s destiny on your shoulders. Those who are attempting to divide this country will have to reckon with you. The country may forget you for a few years, but one day very soon they will look up to you as the last bastion of the Sinhala”.
This is an unintelligent speech when judged by modern human rights standards. Thus the first poisonous seeds of communalism had been planted. This venom is still spreading in Sri-Lanka being carried out by all succeeding prime ministers and presidents.
As expected, in 1956 Mr SWRD Bandaranayake, who formed the ultra-nationalist party called SLFP having abandoned the UNP party of which he was a responsible minister, won a landslide victory in Parliamentary elections on the ‘Sinhala only in 24 hours’ cry. He was thrilled and enacted the Sinhala Language Only Act. This Oxford educated barrister who got rid of his western suite and his Christian religion and donned the cloth and banian dress and converted himself a Buddhist to attract the Sinhala Buddhist voters. The Sinhala only Act was the racist band wagon that he ill-conceived to gain political power. His cabinet was pan Sinhala. Ahouse divided among itself was bound to fall
The Tamils who enjoyed parity of status for their language all this time protested against this discriminatory legislation. As usual the Sinhalese justified the new legislation as legitimate on the ground that majority language should be the official language of Sri-Lanka (At the time Sri-Lanka was called Ceylon). The Tamils peaceful protest led to a civil riots fanned by Sinhala communalist. As many as 2000 Tamils were killed some being thrown alive into hot tar and burning houses. Mr Tarzie Vittachi, a popular journalist and writer at the time described these horrors in his book “Emergency 1958”.The author of this discriminatory act, a short sighted opportunist politician, was ironically shot in his stomach by a Buddhist clergy in his own Rosmead Place home. He died in hospital.
This Sinhala only Language Act contravened some of the nine articles in UNDeclaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, specifically Articles 3, 4 and 5.
This tunnel vision of the Sinhalese continued unabated. In 1970 the United Left Front led by Mrs. Bandaranayke came to power in the election held after assassination of Mr SWRD Bandaranayake.She started to consolidate Sinhala power over the Tamils and other minorities. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
A new constitution was adopted in 1972, renaming Ceylon as Sri Lanka and declaring it a republic. In this constitution appeals to Privy Council against any form of miscarriage of justice that was available at that time was abolished, leaving the Tamils at the mercy of the Sinhala dominated judiciary. Section 29(2) of the Soulbury Constitution giving some meagre safeguard to minority’ rights was expunged. Budhism was given the foremost position. Auradhapura was declared a Sacred Budhist Area and all Hindu temples in the vicinity demolished. Tamils were ousted from the old town of Auradhapura. The Sinhalese language was to be the single official language of the courts and administration. Colonisation of the Tamil homeland by Sinhalese settlers to change the demographic composition in the Northeast continued unabated. These Sinhalese colonists were mostly ex-convicts and undesirables who harassed the peaceful local Tamil villagers.
Srimapura and RG Senanayake pura are Sinhala intrusive colonies introduced in the Tamil Homeland of Trincomalee under this gracious lady’s regime.
Following her husband distasteful act of disrespecting UN declaration, Srima Bandaranayake broke some of the remaining articles in the UN declaration on Ethnic minorities
The UN itself have pointed out these contraventions in its official reports on Sri-Lanka’s human rights violations and war crimes. It is high time the world take immediate steps to stop the erosion of the rights of the minorities in Sri-Lanka and afford them the privilege of enjoying freedom which is their birth right.
A regime change was seen in the next election. The new Jayawardena government brought in the Sixth Amendment to the constitution making it illegal to advocate separation. All office holders including Members of Parliament were mandated to take an oath of allegiance to the unitary constitution. This authoritarian legislation further strangled minority rights to have their own opinion and protest if necessary. The TULF refused to take the oath and boycotted parliament.
Jayawardena government further alienates Tamils. State aided colonization of the Tamil homeland was accelerated by the implementation of the Mahaveli Development Scheme. The Tamils in the Northeast and the Upcountry were kept out of these schemes and the Sinhalese including armed criminals from the South were planted in Tamil areas.
Mr Jayawaedena speeded up the alienation of the Tamils through his cabinet some of whom used cruel methods of bombing Tamil Homeland with crude booms that cannot be delivered precisely in their war against the LTTE. It is pertinent to point out that the Sinhala regime of late president Premadasa never used booms that causes immense destructions in Sinhala areas during the fight with Sinhala rebels called the JVP. Bombing Tamil areas was probably aimed to reduce the Sri-Lankan Tamil population under the pretext of a war against terror and there was no foreign governments to question the Sinhala rulers.
This is how The London Independent of 13 February 1991 described the imprecision bombs.
“Sri Lankan air force uses a crude form of chemical weapon. Empty oil barrels are filled with explosives, sawdust and pieces of rubber (old tires). These are then ignited and rolled out of cargo planes. When it explodes the flaming rubber sticks to the skin and continues to burn.
“On the pretext of fighting the LTTE, Sri Lanka army targets civilians to terrorize and subjugate the Tamil people. The bombs – oil drums filled with gelignite or flammable gas and rubber tubes, which stick to the skin like napalm – have no ballistic stability”.
After independence the ruling power went to the Sinhalese as they became the majority in the parliament. Using this population strength The Sinhalese wanted to reduce the power of the Tamils. Media reports pointed out that there were Sinhala government instigated and aided ethnic riots in 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983. None in the Sinhala population who was responsible for these murder and mayhem were brought to justice. Understandably being given impunity by the Sinhala governments, Sinhala thugs looted robbed and burnt the houses of Tamils in Sinhala areas and at times along with the Tamil occupants. The number of Tamils who lost their valuable lives, limbs, members of their families and property totalled many thousands.
There are many paper reports on Sri-Lanka regarding the war and aftermath eg The UN reports. International Crisis Groups reports, Red Cross reports , Monitoring mission reports on atrocities and inhuman methods adopted by successors of these pioneer anti Tamil racist regimes. The successor governments of Ms Chandika Bandaranayake and Mr Mahinda Rajapakse had the same DNA as their predecessors. The Sinhalee were unstoppable. They thought that they were the king of all they surveyed. Under the protection of the notion that no state could interfere in the internal affairs of a country the Sinhalese went on carrying out Tamils bashing and war crimes against its minorities.
The entire world never opened its eyes till the Sinhalese carried out mass murder and war crimes in May 2009 when nearly 150000 Tamil civilians were massacred. All countries pretended not to know this tragedy. Mahatma Gandhi’s writing on a man feigning sleeps comes to mind in here. He said in his book ‘My Experiments with Truth’ “But you can wake a man only if he is really asleep. No effort that you make will produce any effect upon him if he is merely pretending sleep.”
The horror of this genocide is aptly portrayed by Mr Callum Macrae’s Channel 4 Videos “Killing Fields of Sri-Lanka”. The UN also failed to use the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) mechanism to stop these war crimes against the minorities using its all three armed forces to destroy the Vanni Tamils.
The new bright idea of protecting the minorities in a country using the UN forces to intercede and protect the minorities was conceived late after the Rwandan genocide of 1994.Incidentally, in this worst genocide nearly 800000 Tutsi minorities were massacred with machetes by Hutu racists. That protective system has since worked in a number of cases of mass atrocities against vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, at least in limiting violence against civilians and in bringing the principal perpetrators to justice, in places including Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and Darfur. For unknown reasons possibly influenced by vested interest or through deception by powerful states this R2P provision was not activated in Sri-Lanka.
This Sri-Lankan human rights violation reached the point of ad-nauseam. However, the persistent action of strong willed human rights activists had dragged the elusive Sinhala regime of Sri-Lanka before the UNHRC for war crimes investigations. The Sinhalese are trying all mantra on earth to hoodwink the world and escape an International Investigation into their atrocious war crimes and holocausts. A good situation report from special rapporteurs will aid the delivery of justice to war crime victims. Will the visit of Ndiaye pave the way for an open trial of war criminals?
Hope which is the poor man’s bread is still there. Ms Rita Izsák Ndiaye will be inspired by her own experiences of prejudice and discrimination- Her father’s family was forcibly moved under post-war population transfers from Czechoslovakia (present day Slovakia) to Hungary due to their Hungarian ethnicity in 1947. She has her own knowledge of how racialist operate ignoring Human Rights and values just because they want privileged position in life and politics. These scenarios in her memory bank will help her in smelling out the baddies.
In improving and helping the helpless nothing works like legislations. USA celebrated its 100th anniversary of the introduction of its Migratory Bird Treaty Act, This act is credited for protecting a species of birds called snowy egrets. The zoological name is Egretta thula. These birds were hunted to extinction for their snowy white feathers that decorated fashionable rich ladies hats in those days. This particular legislation revived the survival of these beauties of nature. Similarly a suitable political solution to the Tamils will help them to revive and spring back to their historical dynamism that this well known in Sri-Lankan history.
Dr C P Thiagarajah is a retired medical practitioner from Sri-Lanka, now residing in the United Kingdom. He is a human rights activist and an English poetry writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org