Sri Lanka: Who are the “Missing” who are the “Dead” & who were killed!
By Shenali D Waduge
In a world of controversy & complications it is no surprise that we are still grappling to find answers to who is dead – who was killed & who is missing. The primary inability to find answers is because all efforts are being diverted to negate the lies and fake news floating around. Again the international media need to be asked to correct its reference to Sri Lanka’s conflict & term it as a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) between an armed non-state actor (LTTE) & Sri Lanka’s National Army and so it was not an ethnic conflict or civil war. Sri Lanka was defending itself against terrorism and terrorists on behalf of all its citizens. How come attention is being put to LTTE dead than the dead as a result of LTTE killings? Never has the world given attention to people killed by LTTE than demanding explanations for LTTE killed over and above even Tamil civilians killed.
Sri Lanka’s constitution and all international standards require equality of treatment of a country’s citizens therefore no victim can be more important than another victim. Therefore, the world and international media need to be reminded that the Tamils are not the only victims and any remedy cannot exclude or impede on the human rights of other communities. Solutions have to be given to all equally not only to one ethnic group.
Since 2009 we have been hearing a chorus of ‘thousands reported missing’ who is reporting them, what are their sources and how genuine/authentic are the reports? These details are never disclosed.
Does Leelathevi Ananthanatarajah, the Secretary of the Association for the Relatives of the Enforced Disappearances in the North & East have names and numbers of the disappeared?
The Hindu article by Meera Srinivasan quotes the lines My 34-year-old son surrendered to the Army at the Omanthai checkpoint, just after the war ended in May 2009. We were all there. They said they would question him and release him. I am still waiting,” she told The Hindu (since these lines are quoted immediately after the remarks by Leelathevi Ananthanatarajah, we presume she is referring to her 34-year old son.
Did she first file complaint with police? Did she inform SL Human Rights Commission? Did she report this to the OISL, is her case featured in any UNHRC report? Is her case recorded with the Paranagama Commission or even with the Office of Missing Persons? Has she filed habeas corpus?
What authority in the Sri Lankan Govt can check and revert with answers.
In 2009, the son would have been 24years – where, when & how did he go missing. The article gives the answer he surrendered to the Army at the Omanthai checkpoint just after the war ended in May 2009. We were all there. They said they would question him and release him. I am still waiting,”
So according to her, in her presence her son who was a LTTE combatant surrendered.
With a LTTE-friendly Govt in power since 2015 and TNA playing a major part in it, how is it that Leelathevi Ananthanatarajah could not trace what happened to her son from Jan 2015 to November 2019?
Where are the demands from her during this period?
EU funded Sooka says 110 missing in 2015 referring to the missing from Wadduvakkal Bridge – this list are ALL LTTE combatants. So is she preparing reports on behalf of LTTE terrorists or Tamil Civilians?
The 2015 figure of 110 missing LTTE combatants suddenly shoots up to 280 missing in 2018 referring to the SAME missing from Wadduvakkal Bridge – how can this happen
The Hindu article says affected families relentlessly demanding truth & accountability”.
The question is which” families? Is it families of LTTE dead, or families of ‘civilians’ who were not civilians as they were part of LTTE’s civilian armed brigade or real civilians who were unfortunate to become victim of hostilities between LTTE & SL Army.
However, let’s not forget that enough of reports clearly conclude that the intent of LTTE in keeping civilians was to use them as human shields and hostages and LTTE refused to allow civilians to escape to safety and shot and killed those that did.
So can those presenting lists also be kind enough to give a list of all Tamil civilians LTTE shot dead while trying to flee!
Those giving lists please differentiate Tamil civilians from LTTE & LTTE civilian armed group.
We know that at least 12,000 LTTE surrendered to the Sri Lankan Army and when they surrendered they were not in LTTE uniform. If the Sri Lankan Army wanted to kill them they could have easily done so because they were not in uniform and they surrendered to the army not at the same time or in the same place. We know that close to 12,000 LTTE surrendered because the Sri Lankan Authorities told us and not anyone else.
We also know that there were close to 600 LTTE child soldiers and all of them were not only given Presidential amnesties but were sent to school, given vocational training, helped to restart their lives. That is far more than what LTTE did by kidnapping them from their parents, denying them the right to education & family and giving them a gun. The GoSL gave them a pen and a computer and because of that LTTE former child soldiers became Gokulan’s the singing sensation that everyone has fallen in love with. So all those pointing fingers at the GoSL first tell us what LTTE gave to the child soldiers and compare that with what the GoSL gave them post-LTTE defeat.
There is nothing really to be said of any statement coming out of TNA the entity LTTE created to be its voice in Sri Lanka’s Parliament. No statement came from TNA against LTTE, no statement was issued to LTTE to release any civilians and no TNA so much as sent a bag of rice for the hungry Tamil civilians and never has TNA asked LTTE to stop recruiting children as child soldiers. But TNA children are all studying overseas and that suits them fine. Even after taking over Northern Provincial Council the budget demanded by TNA was next only to Western province and the funding given was not spent on ordinary Tamils to uplift their lives and the money returned to the treasury. So TNA cannot afford to talk living in Colombo and travelling to North only for propaganda.
Sri Lankan citizens and by that we mean the ordinary Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers and even Tamils suffered from LTTE terror throughout 3 decades. While LTTE fought from illegal funding that procured arms from abroad to buy the most sophisticated arms and ammunitions, no Sri Lankan Taxpayer is agreeable to pay a SINGLE CENT to any LTTE combatant or their family who died and the pretext of placing them as Tamil Civilians. The international community must understand this very clearly. If they want to pay LTTE families, they are welcome to do so but after giving the money to the GoSL and naming the families as LTTE first and not as CIVILIANS.
We do not want any future generation to get the wrong side of the story.
WHO DIED – WHO WAS KILLED must correspond with the bodies that were eventually collected & buried during the last phase – we can classify as follows:
• LTTE in uniform killed by SL Army
• LTTE in uniform killed by LTTE (ex: injured LTTE put in bus & exploded)
• LTTE not in uniform killed by LTTE (ex: injured LTTE in bus may have been in civil)
• LTTE in uniform killed by civilians (ex: some civilians attacked LTTE)
• LTTE not in uniform (members of LTTE civilian armed force) killed by SL Army
• Civilians (not engaged in any kind of hostilities) how many of them died during the last phase – how many were killed by LTTE (when trying to flee or refusing to comply with LTTE) / how many died during cross fire between LTTE & SL Army / how many were killed by SL Army (intentionally) / how many were killed by SL Army (unintentionally)
• Civilians who were part of LTTE civil armed force – how many of them got killed during battle with SL Army?
• How many LTTE / SL Army / LTTE civilian armed force / Civilians got injured & died from their injuries during the last phase
Is there anyone who can give even close estimates to these deaths corresponding with the total dead bodies that were eventually buried (not the guestimates falling from the sky during every Geneva session or launch of a book)
WHAT IS CRUCIAL TO THE DISCUSSION IS THE WHOLE WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS HAS TO BE BASED ON KILLING CIVILIANS NOT KILLING LTTE TERRORISTS – given that anyone is alleging the said surrendered LTTE were killed they would first have to prove that they surrendered.
WHO ARE THE MISSING
So far we have not found a single SKELETON to even come close to believing the 40,000 dead figure that has been the basis for demanding war crimes against Sri Lanka and it’s been 10 years now.
• Who are the LTTE ‘missing’ and how many of them are ‘missing’ – How many LTTE are ‘Missing’ will depend upon who is declaring them to be LTTE & missing – LTTE fronts operating overseas / LTTE families. They can be declared missing only if there is NO DEAD BODY found during the last phase.
• If there is no dead body to claim them missing – where could they be? They could have fled to a foreign country. They could have changed identity and pretending to be someone else to disassociate themselves from their past. There could be many other reasons.
• While anyone can be declared dead if they have not appeared for a specific number of years – no one has any right to declare a person or persons guilty of killing the missing person based on circumstantial and hearsay evidence. It must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
• In terms of missing we should also be able to denote who are the missing and since when have they gone missing. In this scenario the missing must also include those that disappeared during 1980s/1990s by either UNP or JVP violence, these are significant numbers and far more than that is being wildly quoted since 2009. As per Paranagama Commission the Missing is placed at 20,000 which includes 5000 missing Sri Lanka Army personnel and their names have been submitted to the Commission, the UNHRC investigation as well. It is interesting that not a single UN official has made any statement on finding their whereabouts!
LTTE & the Sri Lanka engaged in battle and exchanged fire.
Neither side exchanged roses.
LTTE took civilians and refused to free them and fired at the Sri Lanka Army from among civilians. Returning fire in battle is a right of any military. Keeping civilians and firing from among civilians is where LTTE violated rules of war.
LTTE were given 2 chances to lay down arms & surrender but refused.
While engaging in battle, Sri Lanka Armed Forces rescued close to 300,000 Tamils (some LTTE were among them)
No conflict ends without deaths – there have been deaths on both sides.
The ICRC is on record to say the army could have finished the conflict sooner if they did not compromise their own soldiers to save the Tamil civilians kept forcibly by LTTE.
Both the GoSL and UN Country Team estimates of less than 8000 deaths which includes LTTE dead is provable against the vague and sensational figures presented without evidence. We can be happy there has been no deaths related to LTTE terror since 2009.
Yes, 10 years has passed since LTTE defeat. There has to be a closure.
Let us then pool the entities repository of allegations of ‘missing’
• Police – what are the complaints they have since 2009 re LTTE/Civilian missing & their findings following investigations of the complaints
• SL Human Rights Commission – what are the complaints filed and their findings related to the last phase of conflict
• OISL – what are the complaints filed and findings and OISL would need to share the names with the GoSL and intelligence agencies
• Paranagama Commission – what are the complaints filed
• Sooka & ITJP on behalf of LTTE giving lists of LTTE names – do these correspond with names given by families to the police/SLHRC/OISL/Paranagama Commission
• OMP – are all the lists above corresponding and tallying with the details in their possession
• GoSL/Foreign Ministry requests from foreign governments to confirm if names & details match with those seeking asylum or refugee status.
Let us pool these details and see if there are matches and draw this chapter to a conclusion.
It is pointless taking this into another decade when no one is spending an iota of time on justice for the victims killed by LTTE.
Why don’t Sooka and gang compile a list of all those LTTE killed and seek justice instead!