Ron Ridenour

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Backing the Wrong Side: Eva Golinger's Tamil Libel
[June 9, 2010]

“Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse threatens to hang his partner in war crimes, former general Sarath Fonseka, in an indictment for “perpetrating genocide against Tamil civilians.”
-- BBC TV Hardtalk, June 7

On June 7, BBC presenter Stephen Sackur confronted Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, brother to Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse, with an assertion by Sarath Fonseka, former general who had led the final bloody assault against the Tamil Tigers, that he would testify before any independent investigation about alleged government abuses during the Tamil war. “I will not hide anything,” Gen. Fonseca had vowed.

Defense Secretary Rajapakse responded to the BBC interviewer, “That’s a treason. We will hang him if he do that.”

General Fonseka quit the military after the May 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and ran for the presidency in January, 2010. He came in second, losing to the incumbent, Rajapakse. The former war hero was then promptly arrested and remains in military detention, charged with corruption and politicking while in uniform. Mahinda Rajapakse, together with Gotbhaya and two other brothers—who also hold key government posts—are reportedly furious with Fonseka for an interview he did with The Sunday Leader [1], and for his assertion that two of those brothers, Gotabhaya and presidential adviser Basil, had issued the orders that “all LTTE leaders must be killed.”

Tamils claim the four brothers’ actions are just the latest chapter of a long history of Sinhalese government-sponsored genocide against them.

The organization Tamils Against Genocide in February 2009 filed a case in a U.S. District Court in California charging genocide under the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The case can be brought in the US because G. Rajapakse is a naturalized citizen and because Fonseka holds a US green card [2].

Since shortly after gaining independence from Britain, in 1948, Sinhalese governments have been restricting Tamils rights and privileges through laws and through street purges.

In May 2009, the Rajapakse government forced Tamil civilian survivors of the civil war into concentration “welfare” camps, much like those the US used in Vietnam, where they were euphemistically called “strategic hamlets.” In violation of the UN Charter, between 280,000 and half million people were forcibly interned. Today, 100,000 remain incarcerated. One million of Sri Lanka’s three million Tamils have fled the country’s campaign of genocide.

This May 17, the International Crisis Group released its report, “War Crimes in Sri Lanka”. It states:

...Evidence gathered by the International Crisis Group suggests that these [last war] months saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilian men, women, children and elderly killed, countless more wounded, and hundreds of thousands deprived of adequate food and medical care, resulting in more deaths...This evidence also provides reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lanka security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible.

As an example of the crimes being committed, on August 25, 2009, Channel 4 News (UK) broadcast raw footage [3] showing government soldiers casually executing eight captured Tamil men accused of being former LTTE combatants. The act is a war crime. The photos were taken by a government soldier and provided to Channel 4 through the exiled group of Sinhalese and Tamil journalists, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. Internationally renowned forensic experts have validated its authenticity [4].

In a recent Channel 4 News broadcast by Jonathan Miller, eyewitnesses described the systematic murder of all LTTE fighters who were caught or who surrendered. One witness, a senior army commander, said, “Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off.” A frontline Sri Lankan soldier told Miller, “Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone.”

When the fighting ended, practically all the world’s governments quickly embraced the Sri Lanka government victory over the Tigers. Only a few raised questions about possible official atrocities against surrendering Tigers or about the brutal treatment of Tamil civilians. The US, UK, Israel, Pakistan, India, China—all major war suppliers and advisors of the government—applauded the victory. Even leftist states usually at odds with the US-EU colonial-imperialist powers did so. The three ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America) members on the UN Human Rights Council (Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua) praised the Sri Lanka government for winning its war against “terrorist” LTTE, and voted in favor of a resolution [5] presented by the Sri Lankan government before the UN Human Rights Commission on May 27, 2009. .

While ALBA leader Venezuela is not a member of the HRC, President Hugo Chavez followed suit and even invited President Rajapaksa to visit [6].

ALBA members have more recently dropped their public support for the Rajapaksa brothers’ government. I had hoped that these otherwise progressive governments were reevaluating their faulty foreign relations policy, but then an international leftist figure closely associated with Venezuela’s government, Eva Golinger, inexplicably defended the genocidal government of Sri Lanka in an outrageous opinion piece, “Sri Lanka”, printed in a government newspaper, “Correo del Orinoco”, May 15.

Golinger is known for her astute counter-intelligence analyses and as an attorney has worked in the service of Venezuela’s peaceful revolution against the national oligarchy and the United States imperialist policies that back it. English editor of the government newspaper, she authored the book titled, “The Chavez Code: Cracking US intervention in Venezuela”. President Chavez has dubbed her, “La Novía de Venezuela”. (“Bride of Venezuela”.)

In her piece on Sri Lanka, Golinger completely ignores the crimes committed against the Tamils.

Here are some of her claims, which I have translated and refute:

Golinger writes that Rajapakse’s election as president in 2005 was the first presidential election “in nearly 30 years.” In fact, it was the fifth presidential election. The first of five consecutive elections was in 1982 when J.R. Jayawardnae won with 52.9% of the vote. She says Rajapakse won in 2005 with more than 58% of votes, and that in January 2010 he was reelected with more than 60%. In fact, his victory tally in ’85 [7] was by a narrow 50.29% and in 2010, running against Gen. Fonseca as an incumbent [8], was 57.88%.

Golinger writes, “The LTTE had close ties with the CIA, and Washington negotiated an accord with them for establishing a military base in the country, if they obtained power… The LTTE had established numerous organizations—fronts…seeking to create `a government in exile´ and hoping to isolate the current government of Sri Lanka. Last week, representatives of one of its fronts, Canadian Hart, passed through Venezuela; it met with government functionaries seeking support in its intent to weaken the relationship between the two governments.”

Both LTTE and Canadian Hart rebut this libel, as do Canadian solidarity groups that work with Canadian Hart. Their perspective is given in an article titled Venezuela: Eva Golinger’s misinformation endangers exiled Tamils’ fight for freedom [9].

Finally Golinger writes, “Instead of relating to the illegitimate opposition in Sri Lanka, Venezuela should shake the hand of an ally that also suffers imperial aggressions.”

But this depiction of Sri Lanka’s capitalist and genocidal government as an “ally” of Venezuela boggles the mind. There is no shred of evidence [10] that the United States aggresses against Sri Lanka government. Quite to the contrary, the US has always generously armed and financed Sri Lanka. It currently provides military training, financing, and millions of dollars’ worth of weapons annually [11]. This April, U.S. and Sri Lankan military forces conducted joint military exercises.

“The US and Sri Lanka have a long tradition of cooperation. We hope this partnership can be expanded,” said U.S. attaché Lt. Col. Larry Smith [12].

When the U.S. does not want to be seen on the frontlines in a war, it typically sends in surrogates and Israel is its main partner in this case. Israel operated inside Sri Lanka during successive regimes with military advisors and Mossad counter-intelligence agents, who sought to drive a wedge between Muslims and Tamils. Israel sent 16 of its supersonic Kfir fighter jets, Dvora fast naval attack craft, and surveillance equipment, plus advisors and technicians. Israel personnel also took part in military attacks on Tamil units [13].

The Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka (PPT) held hearings in Dublin last January on war crimes charges leveled against Sri Lanka’s government. Ironically, ALBA supporters were prominent. The 11-judge panel was chaired by Francois Houtart, an honorary professor at the University of Havana. Among supporters of the panel and their conclusions was the senior advisor to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Miguel D´Escoto.

The PPT reached an opposite conclusion from Golinger, writing: “The EU decided - under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom - to list the [Tigers] as a terrorist organization in 2006 [which] allowed the Sri Lankan Government to breach the ceasefire agreement and re-start military operations leading to the massive violations...” The PPT”s conclusion [14]: Sri Lanka committed “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”.

Golinger, and all the ALBA governments involved, have made a mistake, perhaps due to unspoken geo-political concerns. The Sri Lanka-Tamil conflict can be difficult to sort out, as the internecine struggle between two key leaders of the 2009 genocide demonstrates. But competent counter-intelligence analysts and attorneys must check their facts before making claims that can be libelous as well as destructive of anti-imperialist solidarity.

Published on This Can't Be Happening

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