This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 6 January 2014 contains one article. It may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as it is credited.
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Sri Lanka: Regime caught red-handed at murder
6 January 2014. A World to Win News Service. In a sharp indictment of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka, video footage screened by UK television Channel 4 News has shown the military shooting unarmed people in the head at point blank range, with many bodies of men and women lying on the ground.
One of the victims of these executions was a woman known as Isaipriya, a high-profile journalist who was part of the press and communications department for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Her body was identified by a close friend, who said that due to health conditions Isaipriya never carried a gun or went to the battlefield. Instead she carried a camera and notepad to document the situation around her. Her varied artistic talents included acting, singing and dancing, and she became a TV presenter for LTTE’s channel. The LTTE were fighting for a homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka where the majority of the population is Tamil.
The Channel 4 video shows 27-year-old Isaipriya being led away half-naked and being given a cloth to cover herself by people in military uniform who are heard saying they had found Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s daughter. She is seen telling her captors “No, I am not her.”
While what caused her death is uncertain, the video shows cuts to her face and her hands appear to be tied behind her back. Later in the video her body is seen positioned in a ditch alongside another bound woman. The Sinhalese-speaking soldiers look directly into the camera.
The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence website lists18 May 2009, as the date of her death and the names of the soldiers who killed her. It refers to her as Lt Col Isaipriya and says she was killed along with 31 other LTTE leaders while engaged in a hostile operation against the Sri Lanka Security Forces during an offensive attack by troops of the 53rd division in the last few days of the war. Some 100,000 people lost their lives in the 26 year-long civil war.
Experts and many others dispute the assertions made by the government. After considering the images and whether there should be prosecution of those responsible, international war crimes lawyer Julian Knowles said: “To my eye, two things stand out – one is the fastening of the hands behind the back. It’s difficult to see how that could have happened if this death occurred in the course of battle. Secondly there’s the absence of any weapons – and thirdly the bodies look posed or arranged. They don’t look like they’ve fallen necessarily in battle as the result of a battle-led injury, so it’s difficult to think of a mechanism how they could have died other than a cold blooded execution.”
He went on to say, “Even if she had been injured in battle and left to die by the soldiers pictured in the video, that still constituted a grave breach of the Geneva Convention… that these mopping up operations did involve the mass killings of civilians or combatants who were trying to surrender. Mopping up operations is just really a euphemism… this is astonishingly powerful evidence of a type I’ve only seen in a handful of times – there’s some footage from Yugoslavia about mass killings – and this is up there. It’s within a very very rare category of evidence where killings are actually captured on tape and the idea that there can be a debate about whether there should be an investigation in the face of evidence like this is very surprising.”
Rajapaksa insists that no war crimes were committed during or after the country’s civil war and has repeatedly refused to allow an independent investigation of atrocities on the part of his troops who allegedly killed 40,000 civilians. But the evidence indicates that he rules the country now with the same efficiency, viciousness and iron hand that he used to annihilate the Tamil Tigers and tens of thousands of people who supported them. Human rights organizations say the country has not stopped pervasive human rights violations such as extra-judicial killings, disappearances and the weakening of checks on executive power through media freedom and judicial independence.
Since 2009 the former war zone of the north has continued to be heavily occupied by the army. Infrastructure is being greatly improved and Sinhalese are flooding to the north, which Tamils see as another form of occupation. The president’s brother Gotabaya has said that it is unnatural for the north to be predominantly Tamil. There are 89,000 war widows in the north and east of Sri Lanka and these women endure sexual harassment and violence from the huge army contingent that still occupies and basically runs the area.
A United Nations report said 70,000 civilians were still unaccounted for after the war. Almost 10,000 are still living in refugee camps. Another UN report says that after Iraq, Sri Lanka has the highest number of disappearances in the world, over 5,600 people. The actual number is considered to be much higher. Most of these disappearances date back to the civil war, but today disappearances of social activists, journalists and government opposition figures continue at an alarming rate. Recently even a high court judge was assaulted after complaining about executive interference in the courts.
Terror of the white vans
One form of suppression and terror is the men in white vans who come to snatch people away from their homes or on the streets. Most of these people are never seen again. Leena Manmekalai from Channel 4 News documented this in her film White Van Stories. Despite severe vigilance and intimidation by the Lankan military, her team interviewed 500 families whose members disappeared after being abducted, taken for enquiry or surrendering during the last stage of war in 2009. The resolute determination of the families to get their stories told gave Manmekalai courage to continue. She went through heavily militarized zones, endured intense intimidation and risked possible “disappearance” herself, like many journalists who dare criticize the government. On one occasion she was held for questioning for several hours and on another she was told to leave the country.
Channel 4 News aired the Isaipriya video shortly before the three-day summit by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Colombo last November. Outraged Indian Tamils demonstrated against India’s planned participation in the event hosted by the Sri Lankan regime. India was obliged to send a lower-level delegation. Among the 50 mainly former member British colonies making up the Commonwealth today, Canada and Mauritius boycotted the meeting.
Before the summit opening, UK prime minister David Cameron made a visit to the Tamil region, where he was confronted by several hundred people holding up pictures of loved ones disappeared by the Rajapaksa government. Cameron as well as other politicians called for transparent and independent investigation of the regime’s “alleged war crimes”. Rajapaksa simply responded to these criticisms as hypocritical, considering the long history of violence and abuse endured under British colonial rule in Asia.
A statement by the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist) entitled, “The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting: A Meeting of Genocidal Criminals, Terrorists, and Torturers,” summarizes it like this: “The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Sri Lanka recently, between the 15th and 17th of November 2013. This is at a time when the Sri Lankan State and the current Rajapaksa regime is being held accountable for ‘alleged’ war crimes and atrocities during the final phase of the civil war by the UNHRC in Geneva, led by the U.S. and its coalition of partners. The U.S., as the number one terrorist, genocidal state in the world and in history, which stands accused of the most horrendous and barbaric war crimes, and its equally complicit coalition, is holding one of its trusted junior neo-colonial partners accountable for war crimes. This has to do with consolidating effective control over the lifelines and the politics of Sri Lanka in the context of intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry to maintain and expand strategic superiority in the Asia Pacific/Indian Ocean Region between the U.S. and China. It shows up the murdering hypocrisy of the imperialist system, including that of the United Nations.
“To be expected, the Commonwealth, a crowning world body of former genocidal colonial predator states along with their bloodied neo-colonial enforcers, has conferred its blessings and approval on one of the most trusted and ruthless neo-colonial terrorist executors of world imperialism – the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The Commonwealth has conferred chairmanship to an ‘alleged’ war criminal being held accountable by the UN. The regime seized upon the chance to ingratiate and legitimate itself with this club of colonial-imperialist criminals in order to save its neck from the Geneva stranglehold.
“It was indeed pathetic and comic to see H.E. the President beaming with supreme pride as he showered his supine and servile graces upon Prince Charles, who had represented the Queen of Britain – one last archaic symbolic vestige of colonial barbarism, genocidal conquest and plunder. This is the Executive President who is claimed to be the reincarnation of a legendary line of Sinhala warrior-conqueror kings. The one who had authorized and orchestrated the military decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and ‘liberated the Motherland’. This is the President who stands up as the guardian of the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation, the living embodiment of militant patriotism, fighting to defend the Land, Religion and Language of the ‘chosen people’ against any and all foreign powers. The charade, the hypocrisy, the sheer ideological jugglery and political bankruptcy, the abject colonial servility was drowned out by the sustained din of official patriotism, jingoism and self-glorification, designed to stupefy and entrance the masses into fervent submission to the regime.
“It was just one sick show of abject servility and capitulation to colonial-imperialist and regional hegemonic powers who are busily dividing up, slicing and devouring the country in order to advance their geo-political strategic interests in the region, with the regime living off the fat spoils of imperialist exploitation, profit and plunder. ”
The review “What’s going on inside Llewyn Davis?” in AWTWNS131202 incorrectly referred to the actor who plays the character Jim, of the film’s folk-singing duo Jim and Jean. He is of course Justin Timberlake, not Justin Beiber.