My Reply to Karen Parker
A lawyer seeking compliance with human rights and humanitarian laws should not only sympathise with the party that is suffering , but also try to understand those who he thinks had inflicted that suffering. With out understanding the cause that led to the suffering no effective solution to eliminate such suffering could be found. The duty of a lawyer is quite different from one who is trying to apply humanitarian laws.
Tamils of the diaspora are strangers to the Ordinary Tamil people living in Sri Lanka, they had been cut away from their native land for far too long to know the existing Sinhala-Tamil relation ship in Sri Lanka.
There are many humanitarian activists from the member states of the International Community who pretend to know the situation in Sri Lanka more than the Sri Lankans themselves. The present problem in Sri Lanka, which is identified by the Tamil diaspora as a conflict between the Sinhala and the Tamil is not the truth. The present problem is between a group of terrorists who had been terrorising the people of Sri Lanka for nearly thirty years and the Government of Sri Lanka who is trying to stop their continued terror.
Even yesterday a Tamil woman terrorist had blown herself in a Military Camp receiving Tamil Civilians from the terrorist held areas, and killed 28 and wounded many civilian men women and children.
You are not aware of the history of the Tamil politics in the North of Sri Lanka that was dominated by the high caste Tamils, though you say know every thing concerning the political history of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
You are too deeply engaged with once side of the problem, and therefore prejudiced against the other side . According to you there is no terrorism or terrorists in Sri Lanka. You think it is some thing imagined by the Sinhala people.
You are unable to appreciate the real situation in Sri lanka today, as you have been misled about the correct situation .
I think further discussion on the subject will lead us know where. I wish you success in your future activities with regard to the application of humanitarian laws.
Karen Parkers Reply to my email below- No:3
Hello Charles Perera. "war" and "armed conflict" are synonymous terms in int'l law. The LTTE meet the int'l law tests for combatants. Either as civil war or war in the exercise of self-determination. Al Quaeda does not. It is NOT an military force. Neither are crime syndicates or gangs(Mafia) A number of other situations that you allude to do not or did not meet armed conflict standards. Some did. I don't make up the rules, I merely apply them. The United States "resolved" its problems with the British by engaging in armed conflict. The United States has also engaged in a civil war. Not to mention countless int'l wars and interventions into civil wars. It would be nice if all internal difficulties could be resolved without resort to armed conflict, but alas, history is full of wars. In the UK as well.
In Sri Lanka the Tamil people tried to resolve difficulties with the Sinhala (Lion flag) majority for many many years. Alas, peaceful solutions did not occur or did not take hold. I have many Sinhala friends, with whom I have worked for years to try to resolve the conflict. One was a UK barrister (now passed away), others both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. They are all aware that the "offers" made to the Tamil people and their leadership were drastically inadequate.
None of them now think the Sinhala rulers will come even close to an acceptable agreement. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Sinhalas have been so intent on denying the Tamil people sufficient autonomy to enable them to live in peace and prosperity. Even a "Quebec" of "Switzerland" solution is unacceptable to them. What would you propose. I am not an interested party in the sense of siding with one side or another. My goal is to seek compliance with humanitarian and human rights law. Full compliance would necessarily require a "fair deal" for the Tamils. This does not mean a "bad deal" for the Sinhalas.
Unfortunately we are now dealing with a Sinhala government that is unsurpassed in Sinhala chauvism and corruption. Again, what would you offer the Tamils? K
My Reply to Karen Parker's e-mail 2 below:
I am a Barrister of the Lincoln’s Inn, and I have done International Law without specialising in it. But I have a keen interest in politics, and political struggles of developing countries against dominant powers thwarting that struggle through apparently well meaning interference. Therefore, I understand your keenness and the effort to understand and contribute to the cause for which you have a specialised legal interest.
The definitions of terms we use to identify armed confrontation between two groups of people, between a group of a people, and a Sovereign State, or between two Sovereign States, shadow the reality of the conflict itself. There have been tribal wars, racial riots, and apartheid. These had all been confined to less developed countries, which were in fact the “teething problems” of emancipation into independence, freedom and development.
All these cannot be put together under the definition of wars.
This applies more so in the case of a conflicts between a group of people, and a Sovereign State, where a group of people who have taken up arms , belongs to the same Sovereign State. These are not freedom fighters. Freedom from the State should be sought through dialogue, instead of resorting to an armed rebellion. Therefore each struggle should be identified differently.
Use of arms in a conflicts does not make it an armed struggle, because such an act by itself is a criminal act instigating uninstructed persons to join together resorting to terror to coerce a government to cede. That for me is terrorism though no one has still found an acceptable definition of terrorism. All forms of extremism could give rise to terrorism, whether it is extremism of the right, the left, religious fanatism , or fundamentalism.
I do not think I said that the armed conflict in Sri Lanka between the GOSL and the LTTE is a war. If I had said that it was wrong. For me terrorism cannot be given respectability by calling it a war, specially when the terrorist LTTE uses very inhuman methods such as using women and children as human bombs causing death and terror. Or the al- Queida getting human beings to commit suicide by flying Air plains loaded with passengers into twin towers.
Terrorism cannot be given any other name, because the terrorist have uniforms and carries the most modern arms and artillery against the Government forces. Terrorism is terrorism whether it is committed in America, Germany, England, Russia , India, or in the jungles of Colombia, what ever is the cause for which they are fighting. Call it what ever you my, but terrorism is not a war. A government fighting against terrorists are not in war with the terrorists, but carrying out military operations to weaken the terrorists and stop their terrorism.
Yesterday the 9th February,2009 , a woman terrorist exploded her self as a human bomb killing 28 persons and wounding many more. On the 8th of February,2009, a young girl of 13 was sent to an army camp with explosives strapped onto her, and exploded by a terrorist with a remote control device. Are these acts of war in defence of which humanitarians laws should be applied, and the clauses of Geneva Convention should be cited ?
I very much regret the physical attacks to which you had been subjected. But those are the risks we take in our desire to “ fight” for causes which we think are correct. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lumumba, Che Guara and many more were not only manhandled but assassinated for the causes they were defending. Even Jesus Christ was nailed on to a cross for pronouncing the God’s words of love.
Even if being subject to fanatic mob attacks, if you can still sympathise with them for their being mislead from what you think is correct, and harbour no animosity towards your attackers, you are then a great human being.
If you do you are not attempting to understand them. Because in your attempt to apply humanitarian laws to all human struggles, you are only fighting for a cause, without taking side with one party or the other. But , if you were to take sides, one party can accuse you as belonging to the other. If you take sides, you are no more an independent investigator but an interested party attempting to justify the cause of the terrorists, or the Sinhala Government.
I am afraid, even if this e-mail is going to be long I cannot help but point out to you that your concept of verbal assault is wrong. I, who am trying to point out to you that the cause that you are fighting for has another side to it, and in all politeness possible putting forward arguments in its defence is a “ verbal attacker” (to take your own words, “I have also been verbally assaulted every time I have had any letter, report or other communication made public. Every single time. Now from you “ )
When you are defending an accused in a court of law, you would not say that the prosecuting counsel who argues against you is verbally assaulting you !
The people are the same whether they are Sinhala, Tamil, American, French or whatever. But they act differently according to which cause they are fighting, and which side you are taking. If you were defending the GOSL you would have been attacked by the Tamils. That is why if you do not belong to any one side you should be objective in you investigations and presentations.
The new President Barack Obama is trying to collaborate with every one to put forward a an economic plan, it had been passed by the Senate, and still awaiting to be passed in the Congress. Every days delay sees more Americans out of employment. But the Republicans are holding up the bill. Isn’t that also some sort of assault against Democrats for their attempt to implement the “Obama Plan” ?
What I notice in you is a prejudice against the Sinhala, in you attempt to implement Humanitarian Law. I plead you to please be objective. Please forget about the Tamils and Sinhala. Think only of the problem that has caused the present situation in Sri Lanka, not of the people involved in it.
There is terrorism, You cannot deny it. Terrorism has to be stopped where ever it is and who ever the people are involved in it.
There are the Tamils, and there are the Sinhala. They have to solve a problem if they have by entering into a dialogue.
It is as simple as that. Rest of the arguments only complicate the issue, hiding the reality behind words.
Your defence takes value only if you defend the problem, without getting involved with the parties to the problem – the Sinhala or the Tamil.
Karen Parker replies: 2
I have been involved in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka because I specialize in armed conflict law. I also address a number of other situations that are armed conflict. A huge problem in the application of humanitarian law is that the US (the Bush administration and others that the US persuaded) has converted armed conflict to "terrorism/counter-terrorism" and has used Sri lanka in this regard. As a lawyer, my career is about compliance with the Geneva Conventions and all other rules of humanitarian law. The armed conflict in Sri Lanka is between the GOSL forces and the LTTE. You indicate that it is a war. Of course it is!! Multi-barreled rocket launchers, tanks, etc. This is not "box-cutters on an airplane." Both sides are armed forces in uniform, using the instrumentalities of war, with a chain of military command. A situation cannot be BOTH a war and "terrorism/counter-terrorism." LTTE is nothing like Al Qaeda, who hide out and are not in uniform. For "daring" to mention that humanitarian law should be complied with in Sri Lanka, I have twice been physically assaulted by Sinhala mobs-- once in Sacramento when 7 months pregnant where the police had to come to my rescue and once in Geneva in front of the Palais des Nations, and the UN Security Head at the UN gate had to call Geneva Police. At a Conference in Australia with MPs and judges, the Police there had to cordon off a Sinhala mob. I was nearly assaulted in Norway by Sinhalas at a session with the Norwegian Labour Party and the Norwegians had to call the police. I have also been verbally assaulted every time I have had any letter, report or other communication made public. Every single time. Now from you. For the past 26 years. I know of no situation in which Tamils have either physically or verbally assaulted Sinhalas. There was not a single Tamil protester (or counter-demonstrator at the Sinhala event in Geneva when I was assaulted. No person will ever erase these incidents from my mind. Note that the Geneva authorities will not give a permit to Sinhala demonstrators since that event. I think you may be living in a Sinhala cocoon, and do not understand the situation in its fullest. What possible reason do the Tamils have to be forced to submit to Sinhala racist regimes? Sorry. I do not get where you are coming from. The Tamils in the north, supposedly "liberated" are in detention camps. The ICRC had spoken out about the attacks on the hospitals -- war crimes under humanitarian law. I cannot believe that you do not accept that these events occurred? Attacking the "messengers" will not solve the issue. What do you want for the Tamils? If your goal is for a united Sri Lanka with full rights for all, you are not going about it usefully. Rather, this appears to reinforce genocide of Tamils. You should be urging the GOSL to call off the genocide and negotiate a realistic proposal that the Tamils might accept. Sorry, that is how I call it. Karen ps By the way, the massacre of Tamils by Sinhala mobs in 1983 was not the only one.
Karen Parker Replies: 1.
I have covered the conflict since the massacres by Sinhala against Tamils in 1983. Since the war began, there have been over 100,000 casualties, the vast majority Tamil civilians. This is a figure released by a highly respected medical group in the UK. I also have photographs of Buddhist monks verbally attacking the Tamil people (in their view, Sri Lanka is a Sinhala, Buddhist State). Anyone who expresses any sympathy with the Tamil people or their aspirations is verbally attacked -- whether a UN official, the ICRC, Norway, other gov't figures or NGOs. The legal age for combatants is 15. That is why I have never taken on the Government for "child soldiers." I have never taken a penny from the LTTE, and consider that your allegation that I have is libelous. No one in the Tamil Diaspora has ever "prompted" me on any statement I have written. As the government of Sri Lanka has made similar charges against me, I assume you are paid by them. I address a wide array of war situations, not just this one. I specialize in armed conflict law, so this explains that. No one except the Sinhala gov't attacks me, with the exception of the regime in Burma. While I have many friends who are Tamil, many of whom I have known for 20+ years, I also know a fair number of Sinhala people, including Bahu and others, most of whom agree with me on the situation. For a country that claims to be "ethnically neutral" it is most puzzling why the flag depicts the Sinhala lion. G. Rajapakse's statement that it is ok to attack hospitals that are not in "safety zones" is preposterous, as the cornerstone of humanitarian law is the absolute protection of all medical facilities for both combatants and civilians. What exactly is your agenda? Mine is compliance with the law. Dr. Parker
Reply to Karen Parker.
Year 1983 you refer to is not unknown. But unfortunately the casualty figures given by the Medical Group you refer to are exaggerated. Any way that is past history.
Sri Lanka is a country like any other. Sinhala consists of 78 percent of the population. But the Sinhala people do not go round telling that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country. But each Community may say that Sri Lanka is their country, there is no restriction.
It is the motherland of every one of us- the Sinhala, the Tamils, the Muslims and all the rest.
A Sinhala Buddhist monk can call Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist State. He does not mean by that, it does not belong to any one else. If an American Indian were to say that America belongs to Red Indians, he is not denying that it also belongs to others who are living there now.
It is not true to say that in Sri Lanka any one that sympathises with a Tamil person is verbally attacked. But if you sympathies with the terrorists, then of course people will say that you are a terrorist sympathiser, and therefore an anti Sri Lankan.
There are terrorists in Sri Lanka Ms. Parker, perhaps you are not aware of it and therefore mixing up Tamil civilian people with the terrorists- who are of the Tamil origin. They are two different categories. The Government of Sri Lanka is not against the Tamil civilians , but definitely against the terrorists led by a man called Prabhakaran.
Sri Lanka Army has no child soldiers. It recruits persons above 18 years of age as soldiers.
I never accused you for having taken money, from the terrorists, I had written that you may have been sponsored by a wealthy Front Organisation of the terrorists in USA. Even if you are paid, as a lawyer it would be a retainer fee. According to a website Bruce Fein is paid a retainer of US$ 1000 per day by a Front Organisation for terrorists.
If you had not been prompted by an anti-government pro-terrorist Tamil person of the diaspora, the information you have gathered I do not know from where, is totally wrong.
Not only the government but any body reading your appeal to the UNHCHR Ms.Pillay, including Ms.Pillay herself will know you have got the wrong information.
I have no doubt you have addressed a wide array of war situation, but what you have addressed on the situation in Sri Lanka is based on wrong information. If your Tamil friends are anti-Sinhala and anti government, they will undoubtedly support the wrong information you had given in your letter to Ms.Pillay.
Bahu is a Marxist theoretician and an anti government politician. If , you write against the government it would please him, what ever the facts you had given to accuse the Government of Sri Lanka.
With regard to the flag of Sri Lanka it has a long history. The flag, with out the two stripes one green and the other orange, was the flag of the old Sri Lanka which was pulled down by the British when Sri Lanka was declared a British Colony in 1815, and hoisted the Union Jack in its place. When Sri Lanka became Independent on the 4 th February, 1948, the old lion flag of Sri Lanka was once again hoisted in place of the Union Jack, which was taken down.
Later on in the State Council of the Independent Sri Lanka, it was decided by the representatives of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim Communities that two stripes should be added to the lion flag- the green representing the Muslim Community and the Orange representing the Tamil Community. The whole flag represents the whole Nation of Sri Lankans.
If you would go to the website ( http://www.mawbimanews.com/) and watch the Video: “Sri Lanka: Aerial Photos of the Puthukkudyiruppu Hospital shows no damage nor cluster bombs” , you will see for yourself that the Hospital in question has not been touched by any artillery fire or cluster bombs.
These are the misinformation fed into the different Pro-terrorists websites to mislead the International Community to attract their sympathy to the terrorists, and raise anger against the Government.
My Agenda is to counter the misinformation publicised by the terrorists, and to keep intelligent persons from the International Community informed of the correct situation in Sri Lanka.