Sri Lanka’s failure to end conflict is dangerous: rights group

July 8th, 2008 - 10:27 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s inability to resolve the ethnic conflict poses dangers, a rights group has said, adding that Tamils firmly believe in the “justice of the liberation struggle” even if they don’t admire the Tamil Tigers. In its latest bulletin, the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) has painted a grim picture of life in Vanni, the vast region in the island’s north that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controls.

“The prospect of a (political) settlement is now prisoner to the government’s obsession with its Sinhalese extremist agenda as the only means of prolonging its hold on power,” it said.

“So strong is this link that it is prepared to risk economic collapse and social unrest in the south (of Sri Lanka) by people ridiculously unable to make ends meet.

“The LTTE sees this as its best hope and would use any means, including likely an open use of child soldiers, to prolong the war until the south plunges into chaos.”

The independent rights body added: “The Sinhalese polity’s inability to bring about an equitable settlement poses other dangers. Tamils everywhere, whether or not they support the LTTE, believe in the justice of the Tamil liberation struggle.

“The LTTE uses the resulting dilemma to conscript raw, unwilling youths and turn them around into determined fighters because although the people are disillusioned with the LTTE, they detest the government and see the two as separate issues.”

Referring to the relentless air bombing of Tamil areas held by the LTTE, it said: “There is no doubt that the government is bombing and shelling people who are prisoners of the LTTE…

“The object of this war is not to bring peace by giving dignity to the Tamils. It is prosecuted on the premise that every Tamil killed is a gain. It is a racist war that uses the LTTE as a pretext.”

The latest UTHR reports comes amid heavy fighting in Sri Lanka’s north where the military is trying to advance into the LTTE region after driving away the Tigers from the east. The violence, including terror attacks, has left thousands dead.

The report said that many of the Tamils dying on the frontlines “are the new conscripts - those who join voluntarily are now exceptional”.

From 2007, it said, the LTTE was conscripting those who had reached 17 years of age. “Presently, they are appealing to those who are 16 to join voluntarily but have not begun conscripting them.”

It said: “Even when people do not believe in the LTTE, they know and feel that the Tamil struggle is legitimate. This is enough for the LTTE to work on the young.”

It said that when people in LTTE areas hear of attacks against civilians in Sri Lanka’s south blamed on the Tigers, they prepare for reprisal air force attacks.

“All functions over the next three days are cancelled. If there is an unexpected bombing raid while a function is going on, unless it is too close, the function proceeds amidst explosions.”

UTHR said that only those who have taken “home-defence training” from the Tigers are allowed to work in LTTE areas. As the LTTE controls most work, only those from families whose members have died fighting for the LTTE get full salaries.

“Life is thus made almost unbearable for those who do not fall in line… Consequently, the extreme bitterness against the LTTE also expresses itself in willingness to act as saboteurs and to set off landmines provided by the Sri Lankan Army.”

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