Callousness of International Community
While doubtless the assaults on the Sri Lankan State will continue,
at least until the Tigers can no longer operate either from our shores
or elsewhere, I believe the last few weeks have helped us to clarify
Certainly the problem that is aired accusingly has boiled down to the
one simple fact, that there are a number of civilians forcibly kept by
the LTTE in the area still under their control, and they will continue
to suffer while conflict continues.
Gone however are the claims that they were being targeted by our
Forces. Whilst one cannot be absolutely sure that there is no collateral
damage, the care that is being exercised now, the results of the care
exercised in the first several months of the offensive, the few
instances in which there was evidence of where the shooting came from,
all suggest that the Tigers bear the main responsibility for the
Facts and figures
Again, while massive numbers were used earlier, these have now come
down, even though none of those who previously cited massive figures has
regretted the exaggerations. Of course when it comes to casualties,
whether the number is big or small is not the question - but by dealing
firmly with the figures, we have at least got rid of the canard that the
civilians were being starved. Indeed we have even managed to supply
medical assistance up to a reasonable standard, certainly better than in
other theatres of conflict, so the fact that we, rather than the Tigers,
have been looking after our fellow civilians, is no longer much in
Plight of civilians
We have also made it crystal clear that it is the Tigers who are not
letting these people go. Earlier there was an attempt to say they did
not want to leave, either because they loved the Tigers, or else because
we treated them so badly when they arrived that they preferred to stay
and be conscripted and forced to labour and even die with the Tigers.
To be in safe hands: People fleeing the Tigers. Picture by
The enormous effort put into the transit camps and welfare centres,
the regular visits, the attitudes of those now looked after there, has
made it clear that this is where the Tamils want to be in preference to
the control of the Tigers. And, even though some NGOs were spreading the
story that we wanted the civilians to wait with the Tigers, that was not
a canard that gained much credence.
At the same time, it should be noted that what might be termed soft
versions of all these stories still remain in circulation. In part this
is because of relentless Tiger propaganda, in part because of the sheer
ignorance of the Western market to which they tailor their wares, in
part because there still are some problems that are blown up out of all
Chief amongst these is the security problem, which means that the
movements of those who flee the Tigers have to be restricted.
This has been grossly misrepresented, with claims of internment by
those who do not understand that internment means taking people from
their homes and shoving them forcibly into camps.
Where people come of their own volition however, seeking refuge,
there is generally a process of screening, and now at least it is
granted that this is essential. But instead it is now claimed that this
screening must be done in a very limited period, whereas the numbers
coming over, the depth of what might be termed Tiger infiltrating
capacity, the horrendous nature of the violence that will erupt if we
get things wrong, all suggest that great care must be exercised.
And the point it, great care will be, for no government can afford to
be lax about its primary duty, the security of its citizens. But this
means endless attrition, with some members of what is called the
International Community even advocating cutting down on supplementary
rations until they get their will.
Indeed this Community has strange standards, with a refusal sometimes
to provide assistance above a certain level. It also makes noises about
the immensely successful Confidence Building and Stabilization Measures
Project, claiming that it is not the function of UNHCR to fund
What it evidently wants is tiny boxlike tents in which the poor IDPs
spend the whole day, with no occupation, waiting for bountiful white
women to bring them salt and flour and sugar and pulses, nothing more,
quietly going mad because their lives have come to a standstill.
Since however the attempt to say conditions in the camps were
horrible did not succeed, there has now sprung up a new horror story,
namely that many of those who have come over have disappeared. Rather
like the European Minister who avidly asked after the mothers whose
babies were torn out of their wombs, according to a young women now
settled in his country, the spreaders of doom claim that hundreds have
been killed and buried in a mass grave in Anuradhapura.
That there are no details about these massacres, no names or dates or
provenance, suggests that once again we are dealing with deliberate lies
- but alas there are plenty willing to believe such lies.
What we do know is that families have been separated in the course of
seeking refuge, names have been given, and efforts are made to reunite
them. This is not as fast as it could be, but then no other country has
so swiftly provided decent refuge to so high a proportion of its
citizens, citizens who have been increasingly traumatized by the
brutality of the LTTE in keeping them back.
But even that brutality is fine for the LTTE, since the claim is that
any wounds are inflicted by the Government Forces. Surely any idiot
could understand why the LTTE kept these people for so long, moving them
from place to place as they themselves retreated, ignoring our pleas to
let our people go (pleas not echoed by anyone else, so busy were they
then in complaining that they were not allowed to continue to play lady
bountiful to the LTTE as well as the people). It was obvious from the
start that the LTTE were keeping them to use as human shields to defend
themselves, and when they suffered relatively few casualties, why
obviously the LTTE was not above inflicting some to prove their point.
All this could be resolved quite easily if the LTTE were confronted
with a resolve not to be fooled, with a determination to ensure that
they let these people go. But too many people have staked too much on
the opposite, and so it seems that, while half-hearted complaints about
both sides are repeated, the poor civilians will continue to suffer.