Demand for separate state can intensify, says Boston Globe

[TamilNet, Saturday, 25 April 2009, 11:50 GMT]
Pointing out that "[f]or more than a quarter century, successive Sri Lankan governments have refused to grant ethnic Tamils in the north and northeast of the country some form of autonomy or self-rule in a confederal state," the Boston Globe in an editiorial said Saturday that "[i]f the Tamil populace sees no hope for autonomy within Sri Lanka, it may come to demand a separate state." The Globe said, "[t]he Tigers have committed terrorist acts. But the overwhelming majority of the victims in the Rajapaksa brothers' war have been Tamil civilians."

Full text of the editorial follows:

The agony in Sri Lanka

ONE OF THE WORLD'S longest, bloodiest conflicts is coming to a gruesome conclusion on the island nation of Sri Lanka. The United Nations estimates that some 6,500 civilians have died and 14,000 have been injured in the government's merciless offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the northeast of the country. The Obama administration and other governments, particularly India and China, should pressure both the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers to halt the fighting and permit trapped civilians to escape.

This sort of humanitarian intervention would be more likely to succeed if the interveners make it clear that Sri Lankan government officials and Tiger leaders will be held responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Accounts from refugees leave little doubt that both sides have perpetrated such crimes. It was probably to hide those crimes that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defense Minister Gotabahaya Rajapaksa, his brother, banned international aid groups and independent journalists from the theater of war.

At a time when 100,000 refugees need medical care, food, and shelter, and another 50,000 are under shelling in a five-square-mile war zone, the international community has proved impotent to live up to the UN's 2005 adoption of a "right to protect" civilians who are not protected by their government. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deserves credit for announcing Thursday that he was sending a humanitarian aid team to the war zone. "So many lives have been sacrificed," Ban said. "There is no time to lose." Welcome as the UN chief's humanitarian initiative must be, the sad truth is that it comes woefully late, after too much preventable human suffering.

The Rajapaksa brothers have been able to get away with their no-quarter assault on the Tigers, with all the collateral damage that entailed, because they dressed it up as a war against terrorists. Their propaganda has been effective because it is grounded in a half-truth. The Tigers have committed terrorist acts. But the overwhelming majority of the victims in the Rajapaksa brothers' war have been Tamil civilians. For more than a quarter century, successive Sri Lankan governments have refused to grant ethnic Tamils in the north and northeast of the country some form of autonomy or self-rule in a confederal state.

The Tigers may be crushed in the next few days. But the anger and alienation of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka is more acute than ever. The ultimate solution for Sri Lanka's communal conflict can only be political, not military. If the Tamil populace sees no hope for autonomy within Sri Lanka, it may come to demand a separate state - after all, the secessionist goal of the Tigers.


External Links:
BostonGlobe: The agony in Sri Lanka

 

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