As the Darusman Report excoriates the government of Sri Lankan for its handling of the war against the terror—namely the defeat of the LTTE and the management of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) that ensued—the government fights back with a report of its own. An exhaustive 85-page survey supported by internal memos, statistics, and photos, “Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Effort,” details the government’s very successful efforts in addressing and averting what could have been a major humanitarian crisis in the war’s aftermath.
Housing, feeding and ensuring healthcare for approximately 294,000 IDPs immediately following the conflict, after all, was no small task, and might have proved a logistical nightmare had not the government taken the necessary steps in advance of their victory on the battlefield—all of which is laid out in this report. In addition, it is noted that in the two years since the end of hostilities, 95% of those IDPs have been returned to their villages. Those who remain are only being held until the completion of de-mining efforts (the government estimates that there are over 402 square kilometers of mine fields still to be cleared since the LTTE laid more than 1.5 million mines). Contrast this massive relief effort with that of a wealthy country like the U.S., where some victims of Hurricane Katrina are still living in FEMA trailers 6 years later, and one can appreciate the full scope of what the SL government has accomplished—and largely on its own.
“Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Effort” Report is available in its entirety at the following link:
I have also highlighted the following relevant passages within the report, which give great insight into the thoroughly ruthless motives and tactics of the LTTE, who actually sought to create a humanitarian crisis in order to bring about foreign intervention in the conflict, a point startlingly absent from this discussion of “war crimes.” The appended documents and internal government correspondences found in the “Annex” section of the report also show the Sri Lankan government as being transparent and forthcoming as possible in their attempts to combat the negative attacks against them.
From “Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Effort”:
- The GoSL [Government of Sri Lanka] in September 2006 established a consultative apex body (Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) to provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict affected population in a centrally coordinated manner in response to a request made by the co-chairs to the peace process; i.e. Japan, United States, European Union and Norway. It convened from October 2006 on 28 occasions to deal with crucial policy and coordination issues.
- Throughout the conflict, all basic and essential services (including health and education) continued to be provided to all affected communities. The Government Agents of the Northern and Eastern districts ensured the presence of the GoSL and acted as an easy point of contact for civilians to access state services. This network was extensively used to identify and provide humanitarian assistance, ensure local level distribution and obtain feedback on the ground situation. Towards the end of the conflict, the LTTE forced the entire civilian population (villages in most instances) to accompany their fighting cadres and held the civilians as hostages to prevent the Government security forces attacking. The civilians so taken were also used as a human shield to launch attacks against GoSL forces. This necessitated the GoSL to put together and carryout a large-scale humanitarian rescue operation. At the end of the rescue operation over 275,000 civilians were freed, becoming dependent on the Government for security and basic essential services. As an immediate further institutional response, a Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development, and Security in the Northern Province (PTF) was created which continues to function primarily focusing on the Northern Province. GoSL made special efforts to ensure that education and medical services were supplied in an uninterrupted manner. The network of public officials in these sectors were continuously paid their salaries and pensions for retired public servants together with all other capital and recurrent expenditures associated with the infrastructure. The GoSL put in place a sophisticated and elaborate patient referral mechanism for patients needing further care utilizing local, district, provincial, and national level hospitals. Overall the measures adopted are categorized as humanitarian assistance to the Jaffna Peninsula.
- During the period January 2008 to early May 2009, 58,393 metric tons of essential items were sent to Killinochchi and Mullaithivu districts alone. This was in addition to the excess paddy available in the districts, the buffer stocks maintained on location and 33,383 metric tons supplied to co-operative outlets during 2008 up to January 2009. Every month, five to six hundred thousand litres of fuel was sent to each district, knowing that it could fall into the hands of the LTTE. The fuel was to be used primarily for operation of hospitals and essential services such as transport. Fuel was also made available to operate vehicles of the UN, ICRC, and other agencies (including NGOs) engaged in humanitarian assistance. Supply of kerosene oil was ensured so that the civilians could cook, operate their farming equipment, and meet other household requirements.
- The LTTE in furtherance of its objective of changing the ethnic composition of the North and East and pressurizing the government to accede to their demands continued their terror campaign of targeting civilians. Shootings, suicide attacks and bombings of civilian targets became quite common during the conflict period. In the latter part of October 1990, the LTTE forcibly evicted approximately 75,000 Muslims within 48 hours from Jaffna resulting in an IDP situation of mega proportion. These IDPs added to the total number of IDPs already swelling due to civilians fleeing the areas where the LTTE engaged government security forces in a bloody conflict using a mixture of conventional warfare and guerrilla tactics. Periodically, the civilian population in the Northern District fled and escaped out of LTTE controlled areas due to constant fighting further reducing the resident population in these areas thus further increasing the IDP population. Approximately a 100,000 people have fled to India and a similar number left Killinochchi and Mullaithivu to Vavuniya.
- The LTTE also had a strategy of murdering and eliminating persons of the Tamil ethnic group who opposed its terrorism and violence. This practice of killing Tamil citizens, whom the LTTE recognised as traitors and influential political moderates, drove a large number of Tamil civilians out of the Northern Province. The recurring wave of intimidation, threat and forceful recruitment of children as cadres also forced thousands of Tamil civilian families to flee the area.
- The nature and intensity of the conflict and also as large swathes of land being subject to de facto LTTE control during different periods of the conflict made it impossible to carry out regular census of any kind. Therefore the precise number of IDPs could not be arrived at. IDP related issues are handled and decisions made based on estimates arrived at after continuous analysis of different data sets submitted by government, non government, and international agencies working with IDPs.
- Several attempts at peace talks by successive governments failed due to the LTTE unilaterally breaking ceasefire agreements and renewing its terror campaigns, at most times gaining the advantage of surprise attacks on government forces. Following the elections in 2005, the Government used its best endeavors to reinitiate the stalled 2002 peace process by trying to get the LTTE back to the negotiation table, in spite of sporadic acts of terrorisms and assassinations carried out by the LTTE.
- In addition to attempting to disrupt food supplies, the LTTE made many attempts to disrupt civilian life in Jaffna by instilling a fear psychosis in the minds of the civilians. In its endeavors to bring life to a halt, the schools, public transport, fuel supplies, functioning of the hospitals, etc were closed under LTTE threats. This LTTE strategy was aimed at creating a humanitarian crisis in the Jaffna peninsula, and to instigate external intervention. The LTTE attempted to create a siege situation to force the peninsula into submission. Despite these challenges, the continued efforts of the GoSL resulted in restoring normalcy to Jaffna within a short space of time, providing the required food, medicine, non food needs of the population and ensuring the maintenance of essential services in Jaffna. Special attention was paid during this period to keep the Jaffna economy moving as usual. Subsidy fertilizer provided by the government was sent in two vessels for both seasons of the year. Animal feed required for cattle and poultry farming was also provided regularly. Large quantities of construction materials were regularly supplied to help ongoing housing construction in Jaffna. Arrangements were also made to transport Jaffna produce i.e. chillies, onions to Colombo by returning ships.
The government of Sri Lanka has been portrayed—by its detractors–as reckless in their pursuit of the Tigers in the final days of the conflict, but the evidence presented in “Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Effort,” reveals quite the opposite. Every effort was taken to support the largely Tamil civilian population in the north, throughout the conflict, despite the challenges presented by the LTTE. In light of this information, claims of “genocide,” too, sound completely preposterous. The only genocide seems to be that to which the Tigers subjected their own community. Maybe the U.N. “panel of experts” should have been more attentive to the basic facts before putting together the Darusman Report, which looks more and more like a terribly flawed and biased document.