The Economist takes a look at the response from the state and political parties et al, following the defeat of the LTTE: the speeches, the parades, the hailing of Mahinda Rajapakse as a king.
In the third of his big set-piece victory speeches early this month, Mr Rajapaksa asserted that the war had been fought to liberate the Tamil people. Unaccountably, he made no reference to the sufferings of Sri Lankan Tamils even though nearly 300,000 of them have been displaced from their homes and are now miserably interned in camps. The president also harked back to ancient Sinhalese martial heroes. Marking victory with plans to build stupas all over the mainly Buddhist country, and relishing songs, posters and newspaper articles hailing him as a “king”, Mr Rajapaksa seems to be cultivating the image of an elected monarch. In particular, he likes to recall Dutugemunu, a famous warrior-king of the second century BC, who defeated Elara, a Tamil usurper from India.
This foolish oratorical provocation has been matched by increasing intolerance of dissent, suspicion of many Tamils and threats against those seen as Tiger “collaborators”. The government refuses to bow to calls for an independent investigation into the final weeks of the war, in which thousands are believed to have been killed by government shelling. It blames nearly all the civilian deaths on the Tigers. But in the absence of any inquiry a decades-old culture of impunity will persist, as will Tamil grievances and a sense of injustice.
Read the entire article here.
In an interesting addendum, ICT4Peace reports that “This week’s Economist has apparently (as per Vijitha Yapa – to whom I pay a bloody 11,000 bucks for the magazine) been “held up” at Customs.”
BBC’s Hard Talk has an interview with Des Browne, the special envoy for Sri Lanka of the British Government on Britain’s involvement and relations with Sri Lanka during and immediately after the last phase of the military conflict. An interesting conversation.
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After a military victory for the government in a civil war that has torn the country apart for decades, Sri Lanka now begins a process of national reconciliation. Al-Jazeera’s Riz Khan explores.
Ajit Gunawardene, Deputy Chairman of John Keells Holdings talks to Bloomberg TV on the business prospects of a post-war Sri Lanka.
Reuters has a report. In summary,
- More than 6,200 soldiers killed and nearly 30,000 wounded (Source: Defence Secretary interview with ITN)
- More than 15,000 LTTE cardres killed according to the Military several months ago.
No final tally.
- Around 7,000 civilians killed since January according to unverified, unofficial U.N. estimates. Around 280,000 displaced according to aid agencies.
- Overall, according to the UN, the conflict has killed from about 80,000 -100,000 people.
Update (23/05/2009): According to Army Chief speaking to NDTV, a total of 22,000 LTTE cardres were killed by the Army alone. He also puts the casualty figures of the Sri Lanka troops lower.
Move over Bush, the TIME has a new piece on the Rajapakse doctrine of counterinsurgency. The whole thing is worth a read. Below is a key excerpt:
The main principles [of the Rajapakse doctrine of counterinsurgency] are:
Brute Force Works
Modern military wisdom says sheer force doesn’t quell insurgencies, and that in the long run political and economic power-sharing along with social reconciliation are the only ways to end the fighting. But the Sri Lankan army eventually broke down the Tigers in an unrelenting military campaign, the final phase of which lasted more than two years. That sort of sustained offensive hasn’t been tried anywhere, in decades.
After numerous attempts at mediation — most notably by Norway — led to nothing, Rajapaksa basically abandoned the pursuit of a negotiated solution. Once the military had the upper hand, there was little effort to treaty with the Tigers.
Collateral Damage Is Acceptable
In the final months of fighting, the Sri Lankan military offensive hardly differentiated between civilian and Tiger targets. Refugees fleeing the fighting said thousands of innocents were being killed in the army’s bombardments. Modern militaries typically halt hostilities when large numbers of civilians are killed. The Sri Lankan army barely paused. Reva Bhalla, director of analysis at Stratfor, a global intelligence firm, says Rajapaksa’s “disregard for civilian casualties” was a key to the success of the military operation.
Critics Should Shut Up — Or Else
For a democracy, Sri Lanka’s recent record on press freedom is an embarrassment. Journalists who dared question the government (and not just over the military campaign) have been threatened, roughed up, or worse. The Jan. 8 murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, a crusading editor — and TIME contributor — was an especially low point. In recent months, as the fighting intensified, journalists and international observers were kept well away, ensuring very little reporting on the military’s harsh tactics and the civilian casualties.
Lack of accurate reporting from the war front was one reason why the international outcry against the military’s heavy-handedness was so muted — especially in the U.S. Rajapaksa also benefited from the post-9/11 global consensus that insurgent groups using terror tactics “can no longer call themselves freedom fighters,” according to Daniel Markey, a South Asia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The Tigers didn’t understand this, and paid a significant price.”
That may be one lesson insurgencies worldwide can learn from the Tigers’ downfall.
The whole thing on TIME.
On a somewhat related note, and if you are into this sort of thing, take a look at this superb article on Tehelka on Prabhakaran’s rise and fall.