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Sri Lankan military should be acclaimed

Throughout history, during times of war, soldiers have been known to do horrible things. Committing atrocities because of fear, stress, confusion or unbalanced mental states is not an uncommon occurrence; animalistic behaviour has not been unknown. Acts of inhumanity to man are never acceptable under any circumstances, but they are generally viewed by historians as an unfortunate condition, or bi-product if you will, of all military conflicts.

Sri Lankan soldiers fought to protect the sovereignty of our country, and they did their job well. During the entire course of the long LTTE conflict I was always impressed by one characteristic that consistently stood out in regards to the way the war was being managed: the compassion and restraint showed by the Sri Lankan military towards the IDPs and the civilian victims of the war. Let me cite a few examples:

Velupillai Prabhakaran

I will never forget the images I saw of Sri Lankan soldiers respectfully carrying the body of slain terrorist leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, on a stretcher. One soldier even stood next to the body and waved flies away from its lifeless face. There was no mistreatment of the remains of the man responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths, including 24,000 soldiers; there was no cheering or ‘triumphalism?’as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon commented the other day. There was only the same basic human decency and respect that the Sri Lankan soldiers would have shown to one of their own fallen comrades. Prabhakaran was a human being, after all.

Medical facilities for IDPs. Picture by Chaminda Hittatiya

The LTTE had an arsenal of sophisticated state-of-the-art weaponry, which had been purchased with money donated by the world-wide Tamil ‘Diaspora’. They used their technological advantage against the army at every opportunity ? even during the final days of the war. The Army, however, only had simple, out-of-date equipment with which to do battle; and in the last days they restrained themselves even in the use of that - often resorting to hand-to-hand combat in order to insure the lives of the trapped human shields. Claims by the Western Powers that the Army was using heavy artillery on the incarcerated civilians is nothing more than propaganda generated by those that shared Prabhakaran?s dream. For some, that dream is unfortunately still alive.

Before its defeat the LTTE killed children, pregnant women, monks, priests, and their own Tamil leaders - not to mention political leaders of both Sri Lanka and India. They used suicide bombers to destroy the lives of innocent people on buses, trains, public roads and buildings. They even shot their own people in the back when they tried to escape their last prison called the ‘No Fire Zone.’ Instead of indiscriminately wiping out the remaining cadres in the final days, the soldiers used the utmost care to rescue the unfortunate human shields as quickly as possible. This restraint cost the Army the lives of several thousand soldiers, but they prevented the loss of tens of thousands of Tamils. Many of the IDP?s required emergency medical treatment, and the Army made sure they got it speedily so their lives could be saved.

Western Powers

When nearly 100,000 people escaped on that first amazing day of rescue, the Army was caught by surprise; it was unprepared for the deluge of humanity they saw coming toward them, and for whom they were charged with providing care. Many of the soldiers did without their own food and water that day, and gave their portions to the starving masses as they reached safety. Please remind the Western Powers of this selfless act of charity and compassion when they preach about human rights. Why don?t we see these stories reported in the Western media?

Speaking of food and water, let’s not forget the fact that the Government of Sri Lanka actually fed the LTTE cadres during the final phase of Eelam IV, giving them energy to fight us another day.

They wanted to make sure the human shields had food, so they fed the enemy at the same time. We later learned, of course, that the LTTE kept most of the humanitarian supplies for itself ? including food, water, and medicine. The President knew this, but insisted that the human shields were all Sri Lankans, and they needed to be cared for as he would care for his own children.

When the Americans and their allies invaded Iraq they toppled, smashed, and destroyed statues of Saddam, and the many monuments he had built to celebrate his own perceived greatness.

The Sri Lankan military, however, showed respect for the monuments the LTTE had erected in Kilinochchi and elsewhere, and they remain in tact to this day. Even the monuments honoring the leader of the Sea Tiger’s son, and others, were left standing by the liberating soldiers.

Thousands of children, most of whom had never attended school, were among the human shields rescued by the soldiers. Within a matter of days the Government already had them attending classes for the first time. Universal education is a law of the land in Sri Lanka, and the President wanted to make sure these children were deprived of this right no longer.

Prabhakaran used to murder the families of his enemies, and those of people who refused to give money to his cause or follow his rule. Prabhakaran’s parents as well as the families of other LTTE leaders? some slain, and some still alive are in the Government’s custody, and are being cared for well. After all, they are Sri Lankans too.

IDP camps

We have just learned that there are approximately 3,000 pregnant women and girls in the IDP camps. They got themselves pregnant in order to avoid being conscripted as soldiers by the LTTE. During the last days of the rescue, some pregnant human shields gave birth in ships, and their babies were brought into the world by female soldiers with hearts of gold. These new mothers are now being given proper medical treatment, and the children they bore will be raised as fully-enfranchised Sri Lankan citizens - not as minorities.

The Government of Sri Lanka has a big job on its hands caring for 300,000 Sri Lankans who up until now had no future. The soldiers who rescued them demonstrated compassion, patience, restraint and goodwill. The US and British Armed Forces, as well as others, have demonstrated far less in their callous, degrading and inhumane treatment of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere, and they seemed to care very little for the thousands of lives they destroyed during their bombings of Iraq, Afghanistan and lately, Pakistan.

Human rights

I suggest that the Western Powers re-evaluate their assessment of the Sri Lankan Government and its Armed Forces, and instead of condemning it for fabricated human rights offenses, and trying to align the United Nations against it, it should give it accolades for its humanitarian actions and compassionate motivations. It should use the Sri Lankan Army as an example for its own militaries, and teach their soldiers how to behave with benevolence during wartime. During the entire LTTE conflict we witnessed no atrocities or unspeakable acts of inhumanity against the enemy; it is perhaps one of the only wars in history where this never happened.

May all our war heroes and their families have the Blessings of the Triple Gem.


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LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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