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Children still being abducted? May 22, 2009

Posted by ravana in Uncategorized.
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I have no way to confirm the veracity of these claims, but the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers has released a statement saying,

“Children (under-18s) are being abducted from refugee camps and from Vavuniya
town in northern Sri Lanka by paramilitary groups who enjoy tacit support from the Sri
Lankan government, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers said today.”

They are calling on the UN Special Envoy to investigate. The full statement is here.

UPDATE: According to today’s Daily Mirror, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has “rubbished” the above claim. The same source said that UNICEF also has no reports of such activity. This begs the question: how credible is a claim made by an organisation based in London who has limited presence in Sri Lanka? The point of contact in Sri Lanka for such complaints is UNICEF. Is this just based on yet another disapora rumour?

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1. sarvarakshani - May 26, 2009

i have a couple of friends working in Manik farm. they say, children are being taken away, according to the residence of the camp by the SLA or the paramilitary group that is supported by the govt., and the explanation given is, as ex ltte soldiers they are being taken away for inquiry. some children are reported to be missing while at play or near the bathing area. many of the children taken away like this don’t return. families are told that ex compatent children are kept in a different part of the camp for security reasons. disappearence of children and adults are happening in the camps for sure. who actually does it, and why, what happens to these children are questions still to be answered.

2. aadhavan - May 30, 2009

when channel four smuggled in cameras and reporters into one of the camps(which got them arrested and subsequently deported), they reported that aid workers there told them about the abductions/forcible recruitments. Not every piece of news that doesn’t fit your narative of what is happening in the North is a diaspora rumour. I’m not really sure how credible the govt is any more, after it has become clear that they lied about the number of civilians trapped in the safe zones, and they lied about the military not using heavy artillery in the battle front. Then again, I’m Tamil, so not really sure how credible I am either.

3. Ravana - May 31, 2009

Regarding the estimate of civilians trapped in the Wanni,I thought the government’s estimate too was low,but I don’t know enough about it. Muttukrishnan Sarvanandan, and economist, agreed with the government’s figure. The difficulty is that no census had been conducted in that area for a number of years. Of course, in where there was doubt, the government may have erred on the side that supported a lower financial cost and the military i.e. low figure means low food supplies.

4. aadhavan - May 31, 2009

Funny how the only figures that were accurate were the ones trotted out by the Tamil diaspora. The difference between 70,000 and 350,000 is massive, and the government went ballistic when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights suggested it was closer to 200,000. If the government allowed either the aid agencies, the UN or the ICRC access to the safe zones, the true numbers would have been known easily, and people would have not been starved. Besides, it requires a willing suspension of disbelief to buy into the story that the government and military weren’t aware the number was more than 70,000 when a) by all accounts the had pretty good intel from inside and b)everyone was telling them the numbers were much higher than they claimed. The point is that nothing the government says can be trusted, not just because they have at every point denied access to independent observers who could verify disputed claims, but also because they have blatantly lied about everything from the number of civilians in the safe zone to the question of the use of heavy artillery. Given this, your questioning the veracity of reports about abductions and recruitment from the camps on the basis of the government’s denial, when aid workers from inside the camps are confirming that it is happening, is laughable at best, and a sad testament to the potency of the propoganda machine at work in Sri Lanka. Perhaps the same machine made a victim of Muttukrishna Sarvananda, when he spat out baseless government figures, making him complicit in the starvation of his own people.

5. ravana - June 1, 2009

All I’m saying, with regard to the figures, is that independent people who study these things and who should know better, got the figure wrong too.

I’m not getting into a who’s-more-credible-the-government-or-the-Tamil-diaspora argument with you, Aadhavan. Of course neither the government nor the Tamil diaspora are always credible – truth being the first victim and all that. Have you read the Daily News lately? Or Tamil Net? Or listened to Gota or MIA?

What I find more interesting is the recent accusations and news reports emanating from the Western countries (especially the ones with high Tamil populations) that appear to be based on very thin evidence. This 20,000 civilian casualty extrapolation, for example. Have you understood how they’ve calculated that? It’s a bullshit extrapolation based on a false assumption, it seems to me. Yet, they headline it and report it as if it was verified.

6. aadhavan - June 1, 2009

No independent who studied the numbers found with the government. The UN, the ICRC and western countries were all citing figures of close to 200,000, saying that those were conservative figures. This figure was arrived at based primarily on satellite imagery from the safe zones. So yes, they also got it wrong. M Sarvananda studied these things and should know? Is this a joke? Just because he’s a Tamil that says things that are inimical to the interests of Tamils doesn’t mean everything he says is credible.

The 20,000 figure is the best estimate we have now of how many died. The government isn’t telling us, and even if they did, they couldn’t be trusted. The 20,000 seems to come from ”well-informed estimates” from UN OCHA. Holmes was quoted as saying the figure may be too high or too low. Blaming the western media for ferretting out this stuff and publishing it suggests even you want the truth hidden. While we may not know exactly how many died, we do know that the government lied about not using heavy artillery those last couple of days. We know what transpired was a bloodbath, the proportions of which shocked the well travelled Ban ki Moon. We know the government has an interest in completely playing down the numbers, which is why the ICRC or the UN are still not being allowed in to the former safe zones. We know the UN’s best estimates were that 1000 Tamil civilians were being killed on a daily basis. I don’t know about you mate, but in the light of all that we know, I don’t give a flying fuck if the Times got it wrong by a few thousand. I want to know how many of my fellow civilians were killed. If the Times can help me out by leaking an internal document from the UN, my gratitude goes out to them. This is because I have ano agenda to try and protect the government or to try to potray them in a better light. Evidently, not all of us think the same way.

You have seen the figures that are mentioned. Obviously, what we have are well-informed estimates and not precise, verifiable numbers,” said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the humanitarian co-ordination office.

7. ravana - June 1, 2009

The Times didn’t leak an internal document from the UN. They cite an unnamed source, which the UN has offically denied. Apart from that, the figure is calculated using an extrapolation that defies logic. The 7000 figure which the UN was citing up until the last two days was based on the figure the doctors inside the LTTE controlled area were reporting PLUS the number of bodies found by the army. This is obviously because the structure of the battleground is such that it is split in two, with one side not being able to give the full figure. You may find the army dishonest, but how accurate do you think even an otherwise honest doctor can be surrounded by desperate, hungry, wounded, ruthless men with no other hope but international intervention? .He might Prabhakaran’s own doctor with blind faith in the Thalaivar, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt and say, okay, 7000 civilians died before the last two days. (The doctor’s figure was on average 5 times higher than that of the army, which in itself doesn’t mean that either of the parties were lying).

After that, it got too dangerous for the doctors to stay in there, because the army was moving in, and so they left with what the army says were the last of the civilians. You may wonder what the definition of a civilian is in this case. Certainly, it isn’t someone dressed as a civilian, because as you well know, the LTTE was dressing as civilians from the time they moved the battle to what should have been a safe zone. (This beggars the assumption that you can tell these things from a satellite photograph, and now come to think of it, how would the doctors have known the difference either?) Is a civilian someone who is not holding a gun? If they are all dressed the same and you’re in a gun battle and they blending in among civlians in such a small area, how the hell are you supposed to make an accurate distinction when you yourself are worried about your own life? I think the government assumes that anyone who didn’t leave in that last exodus of civilians were those that chose to stay with the LTTE until the last. Remember even the doctors who were treating the senior LTTE leaders were allowed to leave, so at this stage, it looked like anyone who wanted to leave, could leave.

So the army pressed in to end up controlling the whol area. Counted the bodies and reported a figure. Then some jackass in the Times, multiplied that figure by 6 and added it to the 7000 figure of two days before, to offset in his statistically-challenged mind, the absence of the doctors figure. The doctors figure was necessary only because the battle ground was split. Once the battle was over and the bodies were counted, there is no need for a second figure. Even if you think the army is under-reporting, there is no logical basis to that arithmetic.

So, my main reason for disbelieving this 20,000 figure is because of the flawed assumptions in calculation. Let’s leave the secondary reasons of what constitutes a civilian and the credibility of Prabhakaran’s doctors aside. You don’t need to want to paint the government in a good light to call ‘bullshit’ when you see it. And this 20,000 figure smells like bullshit to me, because it IS.

Oh, and by the way, the only reference to Sarvananda I can find online is on UTHR, where they are using his information (about something else) to back up what they are saying. So, I’m sorry, if he is good enough for the University Teachers for Human Rights to rely on, he’s good enough for me.

And another thing, your main argument seems to be just the citation of UN figures. Mate, I have friends who work in the UN, and related humanitarian agencies who have even been working on the other side until they had to leave. These people are among the best sources of info the UN has, and really, when it comes down to it, they are only reliable upto a certain extent by a certain extent. Very often the international media EXPECTS them to to know, but by their own private admission, they don’t know shit… sometimes.

8. ravana - June 1, 2009

“Asked about a report in the Times claiming 20,000 civilians may have been killed in the final throes of the campaign, Holmes denied it was based on UN figures. “The truth is we simply don’t know. It doesn’t reflect any estimate we made for ourselves. We did have our own internal estimate until the end of April. After that, we didn’t have anyone on the ground,” the British diplomat said.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/29/sri-lanka-civilian-deaths-un

9. ravana - June 1, 2009

“Officially, the UN spokesman in Colombo, Gordon Weiss, would say only that “we have always said many thousands of people died during the conflict”. But privately, UN staff admitted they were puzzled by the methodology used to achieve the new death toll.

“Someone has made an imaginative leap and that is at odds with what we have been saying before,” one official said. “It is a very dangerous thing to do to start making extrapolations.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/29/sri-lanka-casualties-united-nations

10. aadhavan - June 1, 2009

The 7000 figure came from a set of UN documents, and while Holmes said they the UN was unwilling to publish it because they were unsure of it’s reliability, the OCHA spokesperson was willing to go on record saying it was a ”well-informed” estimate. You are wrong when you say the 7000 figure was the UN figure up until the last two days. In fact, the figure was of deaths caused till the end dof April. Then you have the source from the UN who put the number dead at 1000 a day in the last few days(in May), which accords with the numbers cited by sources from the ground like Father Amalraj. Also, while the Holmes said the figure had no status as far as they were concerned, he also said the number could be higher than the number quoted by the Times. All in all, this makes the 20,000 the best estimate we have, although the true number may be more than, or less than 20,000. And, like Holmes said, unless there is an investigation, we will never know. Do you support an independent investigation Ravana or do you not?

Also, wondering whether those remaining till the end were civilians is a little academic, because your assumption is that were killed in gun battles. In fact, there was shelling by the army into the safe zone, which they said they didn’t do, but we now have proof that they lied. Artillery shells don’t discriminate between civilians and amed rebels, so your point is a bit pointless. If your hypotheses that the army assumed that all those who remained were LTTEers is true, that alone is enough to sustain a war crimes allegation, because that is a textbook case of indicriminate attacks. Assuming that any one unwilling to cross over to one’s territory is an enemy combatant is as clear derelction of the imperative duty to estabish the status of the individuals you are attacking.

Re Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, the UTHR reference is where he is breaking down budgetary allocations per person to defence, health etc. Any kid with a calculator could do that. To suggest that the UTHR citing this bit of analysis gives him any credibility when he spits out laughable government stats that resulted in civilians being given only one-fifth of the food they needed is facetious.

Finally, of course, UN personnel are only human. I’ve spent some time in Geneva myself and what was obvious is that the UN is a club of states, and as was demonstrated when they came up with a terribly off the mark figure of 200,000 civilians in the safe zone, the UN is always uber conservative and unwilling to cross states, constantly citing figures and expressing opinions that designed to keep states, even murderous ones, within the system. Given this, the fact that some of them think the number could be well over 200,000, and that they have been calling what happened a blood bath, reflects more on the government that killed those civilians and the people who seek to whitewash and defend the government’s crimes, than on the international media who have been shut out from covering this war without witness.

11. The-Benevolent-Dictator - June 1, 2009

I have no faith in the credibility of the GOSL. Obviously a lot of people died in the last stages of the battle and, frankly speaking, it was to be expected, irrespective of the GOSL’s ludicrous claim that there were no casualties. However, to accuse the SLA of genocide is a bit much. As much as I distrust the GOSL, I distrust the ability of the Tamil diaspora to be objective more and I distrust The Times even more. The fact is that no one knows and I doubt no one will ever know. What happened to the people caught up in the warzone was a travesty but I am not sure who was more responsible. The LTTE who used them as human shields or the SLA who fired into them. But if I were to be brutally honest with myself, I confess I would have done the same thing in the SLA’s position. This is one of those philosophical arguments for which there can be no right or wrong.

12. aadhavan - June 9, 2009

If you would have done what the government did and rain down shells and bombs on civilians, and in the process kill 20,000 civilians(maybe more, maybe less) just to achieve a military objective, then that’s your own sick prerogative. Sri Lanka has lots of people like you, and to my utter horror, I’m discovering that many who appeared to be moderates, are coming out of the woodwork. I put it down to the propoganda, those less charitable put it down to an unexamined racism. Who knows?

13. The-Benevolent-Dictator - June 12, 2009

Aadhavan

Calm down please. I was answering a hypothetical question I posed myself. Granted it is not a palatable one (even to myself) but I am at least objective enough to acknowledge that life requires one to make unpalatable decisions regardless of one’s moral compass.

You keep insisting here and elsewhere that ’20,000′ civilians died and you somehow believe that it was all the govt’s fault. I suppose the LTTE holding civilians as hostages (and thereby exposing them to the military’s attacks) and killing those who tried to flee had nothing to do with the death tolls? What are you, naive?


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