FOR A CHANGE OF HEART
[Once again, the only independent media in Jaffna consist of cyclostyled leaflets. What follows is the translation of a Tamil leaflet which raises issues pertaining to human rights in a liberation struggle].
This is the third time in ten years that we are confronting a large Army.
We must now ask ourselves the question pertaining to the last ten years and the present war, "Have these wars being just wars? Have we on our part upheld high standards in conformity with international conventions?" It is pertinent to ask how conscientious have been those who participated in these wars.
We know that the forces of state and other forces who intervened on behalf of their global interests have used or advocated inhuman and uncivilised means to crouch what began as an armed struggle for the rights of the Tamils. Sadly, these very means have not only been adopted but have also become the sole basis of our own struggle.
A case in the point is the tragic extent to which attacks on helpless civilians has come to be considered part of the normal course of events. Apart from the Sri Lankan forces, it had also become normal for Tamil militant groups to use such inhuman means. Whatever the race or religion, justifying the killings of ordinary civilians on our soil has awakened feelings of fear and disgust. Whether it is the Anuradhapura massacre of 1985, the killings in Aranthalava in the East, the killings by the groups which came to power in 1988 and were used by an alien army, or the killings of ordinary civilians today, these have all brought in a deep sense of despair.
We must look deeply at the phenomenon of killing and torture. It is fitting to examine these in for different categories. The killing and torture of members of other militant groups who had surrendered has come to be treated as normal. Towards the end of 1986, a number of EPRLF members were shot and killed on the pretext that they were trying to escape. Also, a number of Sri Lankan army personnel who surrendered were either killed or had disappeared. A number of militant prisoners were killed in March 1987.
After October 1987, a number of persons who had surrendered to the Indian army and were released, were subsequently abducted by the militant groups in authority. These persons were either tortured or killed. Even today those who surrendered as members of the TNA, of militant groups, or were detained as such are kept in a manner that causes great concern. Some have been confined in holes and others have their legs chained without facilities to unlock them. They are kept in this state continuously for a number of days. They suffer without adequate food, clothing space and elementary facilities. This shows how their treatment has fallen far below internationally accepted standards for detainees and prisoners of war.
A point to note here is that these persons are detained for days without any inquiry and without giving the full details to parents and relatives.
Secondly we examine killings between Tamil militant groups. The fratricidal killings amongst young men who took up arms for freedom is something that grieves us deeply. The fact that more than half the Tamil militants who were killed in the last ten years have been killed at the hands of the fellow militants and that this is still happening, questions the aims of the struggle itself.
Thirdly, we note killing and torture within militant groups themselves. The most tragic aspect of this is the killing and torture of those who had expressed a wish to leave their group for reasons of conscience. This category of persons has been punished on the pretext of having failed in their duty.
Fourthly and most importantly we come to crimes committed against civilians. A number of civilians have been tortured or killed on the pretext that they were helpers or supporters of a particular group. The lack of humanity amongst Tamil militant groups has even been noted by the Amnesty International.
The Use of Children: The matter causing great concern today is the arming of children. This is often justified by claiming that the children had joined voluntarily. One has to ask whether the children have the capacity to think through such a grave matter and come to a decision to join with clarity of mind. What would be the consequences for the community of having a militarised generation that simply obey orders like machines. We know from the experiences of broken hearted youngsters who had freed themselves from this gun-culture, that many of these young persons find it difficult to go on living other than as military machines. We do not intend any disrespect for the sentiments associated with the freedom struggle. But we must rather value the experiences of many dedicated mature persons who were disillusioned. We must ask ourselves whether in arming children, are we not grossly misusing their sensibilities.
When we see from past experience, how structured and disciplined societies had been broken down by enforced militarisation, the same considerations must be applied when we view our own society that is creating a generation in arms. Our society has not been spared the loss of values experienced by many others after a freedom struggle. Though it is claimed that ours is a highly disciplined struggle with strictly observed rules, we know that a lot of immorality and debasement of culture is being covered up. This internal disintegration cannot be hidden for very long. It is the duty of the leadership of liberation groups to look into the effects this process will have on your youth.
We thus see that adopting wrong principals and wrong values have brought our struggle to this tragic state. What we need is a change of heart.
This change of heart should be such as to bring about amongst ourselves, brotherly love and freedom of conscience. The freedom of those who want to leave a militant group or do not wish to bear arms, must be respected. We must also build independent structures to ensure that these freedoms are observed. Our struggle is not going to end with one or two generations of leadership. It must thus take into consideration, future changes in leadership. It must also look towards a new society, without the treachery, lies and intrigues of the past, but wants instead, a belief in forgiveness, and a desire for unity. It is only then that the full potential of the society will be realised in victory. We will no longer need the use of arms. [Top]
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