Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sri Lanka under attack .. still

Wow, I was just watching Al Jazeera and its amazing the global attack still going on against Sri Lanka. It looks like the world is very concerned about what may or may not have happened in the last 2 weeks of a 30 year war. Our military killed 20,000 people in 2 weeks after carefully avoiding civilian casualties all the time before and hanging around for months to wait for the Indian election to finish and more. Yeah, sure, that makes sense.

Then there's the story of the Captain Ali. A ship that is carrying "relief supplies" and tries to come into Sri Lanka unauthorized. Dudes (from ActNow who sent the ship), we gotta navy you know .. and a damned good, war-veteran one too. That's why its kinda under custody now. (The dude from ActNow who was interviewed has apparently been on hunger strike from May 18th. Hmm, sure looked too healthy for that ... maybe a Double Cheeseburger finds its way in there once in a way?)

Oh yes then there's the "international aid agencies" that are not allowed into the IDP (internally displaced person) camps. Sri Lanka must be killing the innocent Tamil people to not let these wonderfully well-intentioned international aid agencies into help. Um, sure. Yes, these would be the same aid agencies whose equipment, money and facilities were used to build up the LTTE. This would also be the same groups who have been caught trying to smuggle people out of the IDP camps. People who were LTTE members.

We won the war after 30 years of struggling and getting screwed by most of the world. You expect us to let you get back in and mess it up? Dream on.

On Wednesday there was a massive military parade in Colombo to celebrate the victory. It was the time to pay homage to the military for the tremendous sacrifices they made to give Sri Lanka freedom, again. For the first time, we have a freedom that has been fought for militarily. You see, unlike the US, we didn't have a culture of thanking the military for our freedom - we got our independence from UK basically free .. on the coat-tails of Indian independence. Now after 30 terrible years, all of Sri Lanka has gained independence again .. thanks to the hard work of our military. There are tens of thousands of permanently disabled troops and many thousands of troops who lost their lives in the process. We owe our freedom to their hard work and sacrifices.

(Its really hard for non-military people to understand or appreciate their sacrifices - I've met one person (a sergent) who spent 16 years in the war zone .. all the while having a wife and kids in the south who he saw but once or twice an year. As a father, I cannot imagine how he survived. His children too have paid a tremendous price for us to enjoy our freedom.)

Now, if the world thinks we're gonna give in and let you run all over us again after all this work, think again. NEVER.

Are we out of the woods with this military victory? Of course not. Its only the opening that was critical for the political system to fix the underlying issues and get us on the right path. I am confident that will happen; this president means business and I believe he will get it done.


mss said...

Hi Sanjiva,

I think its really interesting to read reports like yours from places I'd normally wouldn't hear much from. Thats one of the nice things of Planet Apache.

But I think your recent posts about Sri Lanka, the Tamils etc. are quite biased. I'm not a native English speaker as well so I know how hard it sometimes is to transport what you mean.

But reading stuff like 'Oh yes then there's the "international aid agencies" that are not allowed into the IDP (internally displaced person) camps. Sri Lanka must be killing the innocent Tamil people to not let these wonderfully well-intentioned international aid agencies into help.' and 'We won the war after 30 years of struggling and getting screwed by most of the world. You expect us to let you get back in and mess it up? Dream on. [...] Now, if the world thinks we're gonna give in and let you run all over us again after all this work, think again. NEVER.' on Planet Apache makes me quite queasy.

Maybe this is just me, but I'd like to ask you to either tone done your postings to be a bit more neutral and try to see all sides of the trouble or not have patriotic rants like these syndicated on Planet Apache. (Which would be a shame because as I said I like to read sutff I'd normally won't hear about; just in a bit more neutral way.)


Dumindu Pallewela said...

HA HA!!! It's a shame that we don't ask Western media to be neutral or leave the Internet.

Malinda Kaushalye Kapuruge said...

Dear Malte,
Thanks for your interest about Sri Lanka. I’ve been following similar posts for a while and decided to reply seeing your comment…

@Bias: We all are biased. But it’s better to be biased towards what we believe in. It’s better to be biased for the betterment of the country and its people.

@Tone: IMO Dr. Sanjiva has already toned down. You might not understand the pain of our people who suffered who decades due to this war. We have lost many lives opportunities as a country. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with lots of resources and potential to be come out of third world label. But unfortunately we also have corrupt politicians and a bunch of terrorists (pawns).

@Tamils: If you point me out a single sentence from this or an earlier post that are against Tamils in SL I’ll rest my case. FYI: He has many Tamil students, employees and colleagues.

@Aid agencies: There are lots of international aid agencies working in Sri Lanka. Most of them are doing a superb service due to their experiences. And some are just for money and have hidden agendas. After all, its lots of money. As a country after the war we need their genuine help. But also Sri Lanka should protect her integrity just like any other country. That is not negotiable for any aid or loan.

@All sides of trouble: Agree. We need to reconcile. Sri Lanka has lots of wounds and she need some time to heal. But some of the media are promoting the hatred and their reports are based on claims of a terrorist organization that promoted the hatred among people in this island for their survival. We as peace loving Sri Lankans should hit those media as hard as we can. They need sellable instantly cooked news (e.g. the figure 20000 civilians died… lmao). They never report how the fellow Sri Lankans came forward to the help these IDPs. They never elaborate why the Sri Lankan military waited for months to capture just 10 sq kms.

mss said...

Hi Dumindu,

I didn't ask Sanjiva to leave the internet. Just to think about what content gets aggregated on Planet Apache (see if you don't know what I'm talking about). I don't intend to tell anybody what to write on his or her blog.

There are a lot of diverse blogs aggregated on Planet Apache, mostly technical oriented, but also a lot of personal stuff. And I like the latter compared to other Planets.

But over time Sanjiva's posts attacted my attention. The one reason being that he's talking about a place I haven't heard much first-hand information from. And the other being that his posts sometimes carried kind of an aggressive petriotic undertone. This didn't only trouble me a bit but it also made me stop reading his posts even though they contained interesting details.

Hi Malinda,

Thanks for your elaborated reply, I'll try to reply to the points. Some of my reasons I already wrote above.

@Bias: Of course its better to be biased towards a change to the better. But not necessarily to be biased towards stuff you believe in, without challenging your thoughts. Because sometimes people believe in the wrong things; I don't want to imply that Sanjiva does believe in the wrong things. I'm actually not so sure what exactly he believes in because it got drowned by the rants.

@Tamils: I'm really sorry if I did anybody wrong. That's the typical western arrogance I guess. I meant the LTTE or their followers (who I guess were/are Tamils?). I admit don't know much about Sri Lankas history (but I promise to change this and read some stuff up once I've got the time).

@Tone, Aid and Military: No, I can't pretend to understand the pain you suffered. But as you wrote yourself, you've also got some corrupt politicians. And a military which is used to 25 years of war probably has some own intentions and some of the hidden agendas you mentioned for the aid agencys as well.

After such a long war I can believe that you are moved. But especially after a war, don't declare your military and politicians to saints. They probably made a lot of errors (war is a dirty business after all) and a lot of innocent people were killed on both sides (yours would have been the first war where this didn't happen).

I think what troubled me most about this very post was the phrasing which sounded to me like "Hey World, we are the good ones, our military is so superiour (the talk about the navy and taking the word of the military that they avoided casualties and didn't kill 20000 people for granted), all aid agencies are wrong and its ok if we keep them all out of the camps (now that I've read the third paragraph again I think I misunderstood it and he meant that only a few were kept out, but I don't know the facts) and BTW, you (The World) are the bad ones."

And also the last but one paragraph troubled me, because, you know, I'm part of The World as well and I definitely don't want to run all over you. I'm glad your war is over and hope all the best for you and your country. And I'd love to read more first-hand reports and background infos, just a bit more balanced and less ranty.


Liberal Lanka said...

Hi sanjiva

Been on kottu community I was delighted to come across your blog. People like you can do so much towards educating the world about what is really going on in Sri Lanka.

But I think mss is been reasonable here. How can we claim that we were screwed by most of the world or the world trying to run us over? Everyone is entitled to their beliefs but not to their facts.

Trying to unite as one Sri Lanka but hating the rest of world is a dangerous trend that is going on around Sri Lanka. Specially when even intellectuals such as you are also falling behind the line. It would only enable the part of the hate mongering politicians, businesses and special interest groups to rule us, pushing us into fear psychosis's and distracting our attention from real issues.

metheblogger said...

I've always taken an anti-war stance in the past, but how the western media (mostly UK media) portrays the so-called "Genocide" in Sri Lanka is sickening.

It's probably this kind of moral high ground that makes even people like Sanjiva "rant" about not letting you people run us over again.

It's okay for you to invade Iraq, where as it's illegal for us to fight against a terrorist organization that's in our own country.

Our politicians may be corrupt, and should probably rot in hell. But don't you think as a democratic country the people of this country should choose what's best for them?

Maybe you should also read this account of the drama set forth by an "aid agency" nicely written by a Tamil:

metheblogger said...

My last comment was meant for Malte.

But Sanjiva, what Liberal Lanka says is correct nonetheless.

Sanjiva Weerawarana said...

@mss - your comment about the validity of my blog being aggregated by Planet Apache is a perfectly reasonable one. I will ask the Apache folks whether they feel that its out of line and pull it out in that case. I've had multiple people telling me I'm out of line (including a threat to kick me out the next time I visit the US because I'm a threat to the US!), so indeed I must be at least out of line sometimes.

I totally agree with @Liberal Lanka. I was also anti-war for a long time, but became a supporter of finishing off the LTTE after it became clear that they are not able to come to any reasonable middle-ground. I've said repeatedly on my blog, the military victory is NOT a solution to the root cause of terrorism in Sri Lanka.

(Oh and BTW, LTTE was not all Tamil - right now there's Sinhalese Lt. Col. of the army being investigated for being an LTTE member and having smuggled in LTTE killers 3 times to try to kill the president. There are lots of "Sinhala Tigers" too.)

The situation in Sri Lanka right now is very dangerous. While its important and good to celebrate the victory, its is critically important to not over-do it. Furthermore, its ABSOLUTELY wrong to go after those that opposed the war as LTTE supporters. There have been several reporters who were anti-war who've recently been attacked. That's terribly wrong.

That needs to be nipped in the bud. Otherwise this is not different than what happened in July 1983 .. just on a different basis.

@mss - on the issue of my "rants" - let me give you an analogy. War is OF COURSE really dirty business. Innocent people die and get hurt.

Let's go back to World War II for a second - after all D-Day celebrations just took place in Europe right?

See here for a short summary of the US nuclear bombs that killed maybe 200,000 people in 2 days and possibly 100,000 more in the time afterwards. If you read that article it says that that was after an intense firebombing campaign of Japanese cities.

Genocide? War crimes?

No. Victory.

In Sri Lanka, LTTE took 200,000+ people HOSTAGE. (No one denies that - not even UN or US or UK.) What did our military do when they melted into the civilian population? They didn't fire bomb them, didn't drop phospherous bombs on them or anything like that. Instead they fought tooth and nail and eventually cornered the LTTE leadership and his closest group and wiped them out.

Did innocent people die in the process? OF COURSE. Could that have been avoided? Please tell how. BTW just like the Japanese, the LTTE was offered multiple chances to surrender. But they refused. LTTE was holding them hostage - and was shooting at anyone trying to leave. (Don't believe me on that - read what the people who escaped have said.)

Our military could've gone and taken the LTTE terrorists out earlier. Instead we had to wait until Indian elections were settled (India was a steadfast supporter - despite crazy Tamil Nadu politicians who wanted otherwise). We had INTENSE press attacks in that timeframe.

At the end, I have no idea how many people have died. I'm ABSOLUTELY for a truth and reconciliation commission process to study and document not only what happened in those 2 weeks, but the entire 25+ years of this terrible part of our history which has killed 70,000+ people.

Oh yes, I also want the same done to document the apparently 60,000 or so mostly Sinhalese youth who were killed by the JVP and by the government in response in the late 80s.

Sri Lanka is not a perfect place. I'm not stupid to think that any place is.

However, I am deeply disturbed by the double standards that have been meted out to us by "the world" (esp. the west) in the last few months. We don't deserve that treatment and the more that continues the more people like me will continue to rant.

mss said...

@Liberal Lanka: Your last paragraph summarized parts of my feelings very well. Ranting is a nice and useful thing to do, but especially when aggregated on places like Planet Apache, where they are taken out of context and read by a non Sri Lankian (?), they transport a weird picture of the winners of the war.

@metheblogger: Just for the records: No, it was not ok to invade Iraq, not even the (respectable parts of the) UK press writes that anymore.

Here in Germany we don't hear much about Sri Lanka in the news, at least I haven't seen much on TV or in the newspapers lately (but I'm currently writing on my diploma thesis, so maybe I just missed it). I don't know how the UK media reports (and BTW, you can't really count Al Jazeera as "western media"), but I did a quick search and the reports of the press I normally consume seem to be quite balanced.

From what I read, there seem to be reasonable suspicion that both military sides of the war didn't always obey international law and human rights. And guess what? That's the case in any war. Yes, the military has a hard job, but they still have to obey human rights. But you are right with something else as well: Others, who had their own violation of these laws shouldn't point fingers at Sri Lanka. But its in your own interest to work the war up and don't be blinded by the victory.

Oh, and the linked post about VMM is quite interesting, but organizations like these exist all around the world. Which doesn't mean that other, respectable organizations like Amnesty International shouldn't get access to the camps.


mss said...

@Sanjiva: I haven't seen your reply before I posted my other comment. Thanks for clarification.

And judging from your comment, to me it seems like we actually think completely along the same line. Of course there is cruelty in any war. And of course everybody has to be measured by the same rules. So not all The World wants to run you over :)

The reason why I originally commented was just because (to me) your post/rant was very generalizing and sounded like the complete opposite, like you were glorifying the military, completely denying that there might be anything bad happening on your side. I already guessed that you didn't mean it like that (tried to phrase that in my second paragraph).

I don't think your posts are generally inappropriate for Planet Apache, just the ranty way you wrote this post hurts your concern more than helping it, when read out of context on the Planet.

Dumindu Pallewela said...

@mss: I didn't mean any offence to you in any way. My comment was not exactly a reply to you. It was just an idea that came to my mind, reading your reply.

Oh BTW, I do know what Planet Apache is. I'm an Apache committer too. :)

Rich said...

Having read your posts for some time, and generally accepting that what you say is the true story, I was today pointed to this:

I'm curious how you respond to these accusations. I'm inclined to take them with a grain of salt, given the origin of the article, but, not being there, I honestly don't know what to think.


sanjiva said...

Rich, sorry for the slow response.

To be honest, I don't know the absolute reality of what's going on in the camps. Unfortunately I haven't been able to even visit yet.

However, we have a long history in Sri Lanka of political parties putting their interests WAAAAAAY ahead of national interests. Of course, every party does that to some extent in every country, but here we've never had the type of patriotism that is taken for granted in the US (for example). The value of that patriotism to prevent politics from crossing an invisible "selling out" line is incredible.

We've never had that, at least not since the colonial times.

The war victory has started just a bit of that - starting with pride in our military. People may interpret that as nationalism or racism, but I don't agree. Yes I'm not stupid to think that most Tamil people are proud of the war victory - in order for that to become true we need to make Tamil people's life "normal". We're far from that today.

Let me also point you to Indi's blog - he has visited the camps several times and has written another blog recently that maybe interesting.

The most important point is that things are improving. In a larger scale, its ONLY been about a month since the war finished. The war went on for nearly 30 years.

Please give Sri Lanka a chance to get its act together. If our politicians screw up what the military delivered on a platter and let the Tamil people and ALL of our people down again, next time I'll be on the other side.