Eva Golinger is known for her counter-intelligence analysis in the service of Venezuela’s peaceful revolution against the local oligarchy and the United States Empire. She is a noted author (The Chavez Code: Cracking US intervention in Venezuela). A dual citizen of the US and Venezuela, she is an attorney, and a personal friend of President Hugo Chavez, who dubbed her, “La Novía de Venezuela”. (Novía means “bride”.) She is a frequent contributor to left-wing media around the world, and is the English editor of the Venezuela government newspaper, Correo del Orinoco.
Golinger is a name synonymous with solidarity and anti-imperialism. However, she recently inexplicably immersed herself into being a supporter for the brutal, racist, and genocidal government of Sri Lanka in a resoundingly irresponsible opinion piece printed in the Spanish daily version of Correo del Orinoco, May 15, and on May 21, published by the Caracas city government newspaper, Ciudad CCS. The piece was simply entitled, “Sri Lanka”. Printed in Spanish, I translate into English the major part of its content and analyze its errors with the goal of countering rumors she started, and in an effort to broaden support for a most maligned and oppressed ethnic group, the Tamils of Sri Lanka.
Golinger wrote that, in 2005, Sri Lanka “presidential elections occurred for the first time in nearly 30 years. Mahinda Rajapakse obtained victory with more than 58% of votes. He was reelected, January 2010 with more than 60%.”
Rajapakse, Buddhist leader, is supported by a coalition of leftist parties, among them the Communist Party. In May, 2009, Rajapaske finalized the civil war, defeating the armed organization, LTTE.
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. Upon its defeat, the LTTE had established numerous organizations—fronts in different countries around the world, 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.
Instead of relating to the illegitimate opposition in Sri Lanka, Venezuela should shake the hand of an ally that also suffers imperial aggressions.
Golinger is factually incorrect.
1. Mahinda Rajapaksa is not the first president elected. In 1982, J.R. Jayawardane won the first presidential election with 52.9% of the vote. The United National Party (UNP)—a pro-western party of the comprador bourgeoisie—introduced a new constitution after its 1977 landslide victory. Before then, the office of prime minister was the highest, and Jayawardane won that post and the UNP took 80% of the parliamentary seats. In 1978, the new constitution renamed the country, “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”, but this had nothing to do with socialism. The economy then, as now, was a capitalist one with a neo-liberal orientation much like Chile after the 1973 coup d´etat.
According to the Government Department of Census and Statistics’ own figures (2006/2007), 82% of the rural population lives under the national poverty line while 65% of the urban population is not able to meet the minimum level of per capita daily calorie and protein intake recommended by the government Medical Research Institute. See official figures on the government website.
There can be nothing “democratic socialist” about discriminating against one-fourth of its population, the Tamil ethnic group, making them unequal by legally restricting their rights and privileges. Such has been the case since independence from Britain in 1948. Even the U.S. Library of Congress studied Tamils as an “alienated” group. In 1988, it published, “Sri Lanka: a Country Study”:
”Moderate as well as militant Sri Lankan Tamils have regarded the policies of successive Sinhalese governments in Colombo with suspicion and resentment since at least the mid-1950s, when the `Sinhale Only´ language policy was adopted…”
2. Rajapaska won the fifth presidential elections and with the least majority of all presidents, 50.29%, not 58% as Golinger wrote.
Rajapaska is the current leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), founded in 1951 to represent the Sinhalese bourgeoisie. In 1960 elections, Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranayake became the world’s first woman prime minister. The Moscow-oriented Communist Party and the Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samja Party (LSSP) formed the “United Front” coalition with the SLFP, in 1970. Now with three minister posts, the “old left” betrayed the young. Many Sinhalese leftist youth became disillusioned with the “old left” and after the SLFP returned to government, they rebelled. The so-called “leftist” government, with the CP and LSSP, branded this upsurge a “Che Guevarist uprising” and crushed the rebellion by killing about 20,000 mainly rural Sinhala youth, in 1971. The next year, these “left” parties drafted the first republican constitution in which Sinhalese was codified as the only official language and Buddhism the only the official religion—Tamils are not Buddhists. This eroded whatever support the “old left” had among both leftist Sinhalese and all Tamils. Since then neither the CP nor the LSSP has managed to get a single seat in the parliament independently. They are always with the capitalist party, SLFP.
3. Rajapaska won the January 2010 elections with 57.88%, not 60%, over his former chief general, Sarath Fonsekla, in charge of liquidating the LTTE (Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam). Fonseka’s party, New Democratic Front, received 40.15% of the vote. In desperation, a few Tamils voted for General Fonseka knowing that he was the main army force in carrying out the president’s orders in liquidating the LTTE, and massacring tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. The one difference between the two war criminals was that Fonseka later promised that he would release the rest of the interned Tamils and return their possessions and land. Tamils are crushed for now and resort to seeking a bit of breathing space.
The egomaniacal president was not satisfied with just defeating his former general in the ballot box, he had him arrested and beaten on February 7, shortly after the elections, and charged him with plotting a coup, which General Fonseka denies. A purge of scores of top military officers has occurred; a dozen or more Sinhalese and Tamil journalists have been arrested. In the four years of Rajapakse rule, at least 23 journalists critical of his regime have been murdered.1
4. “The LTTE had close ties with the CIA, and Washington negotiated an accord with them for establishing a military base in the country…” That is an outrageous and unsubstantiated allegation. In my month-long research last autumn, I found nothing to indicate Golinger’s unsupported claim. Looking up “LTTE and CIA” in Google: nothing exists. When searching for LTTE and CIA and LTTE ties to CIA without quotation marks, nothing exists that binds them. I looked up some 200 hits and only found reference to the Golinger claim, and this was cited by a most skeptical Patrick J. O´Donoghue, news editor for the English-language website VHeadline.com, in a May 23 commentary. He said: “I couldn’t believe what I read in the Caracas CC blatt!” We have no way of knowing if the LTTE even met with the CIA, but in war most anything is possible. What we can know is that the US, and its CIA and Pentagon, have long supported the genocidal Sinhalese governments, and most certainly that of Rajapaske, and it placed the LTTE on its Foreign Terrorist Organization hit list in 1997. I will delve into this farther on.
5. Golinger’s claim that Canadian Hart is a front for the LTTE is denied by several solidarity groups in Canada who know that organization for its humanitarian work. See their perspective, “Venezuela: Eva Golinger’s misinformation endangers exiled Tamils’ fight for freedom.”
6. Golinger depicts the Sri Lankan capitalist and genocidal government as an “ally” of Venezuela, one that she recommends her revolutionary government to “shake the hand of an ally that also suffers imperial aggression.” This boggles the mind, or “beggars belief”, as O’Donoghue wrote. Instead of opposing the Yankee Empire, her position is allied with imperialist United States and its allies — Zionist Israel, the United Kingdom, and other former European colonialists, as well as the emerging superpower and worker-exploiter China.2 There is no shred of evidence that the United States aggresses against Sri Lanka governments, on the contrary.
US Supports Sri Lanka Genocide
The Indian Ocean is a vital waterway where half the world’s containerized cargo passes through. Its waters carry heavy traffic of petroleum products. Sri Lankan cooperation is vital to the US Empire’s global interests. A separated Tamil state would complicate cooperation requirements.
The United States of America has been arming and financing Sri Lanka for most of the civil war period. From at least the 1990s, the US has provided military training, financing, logistic supplies and weapons sales worth millions annually. A Voice of America installation was set up in the northwestern part of the country.
The United States government praised Rajapaksa for restarting the war already in July 2006 and officially ending the ceasefire in 2008. The US embassy in Colombo issued this statement: “The United States does not advocate that the Government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE…”
On May 26, 2002, the Colombo English-language Sunday Times wrote about a joint military pact between Sri Lanka and the U.S., a development taken soon after the CSA was signed.
The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement [ACSA]…will enable the United States to utilise Sri Lanka’s ports, airports and air space. As a prelude to the signing of the agreement scheduled for July, this year, United States Naval ships have been calling at the Colombo Port for bunkering as well as to enable sailors to go on shore leave.
In return for the facilities offered, Sri Lanka is to receive military assistance from the United States including increased training facilities and equipment. The training, which will encompass joint exercises with United States Armed Forces, will focus on counter terrorism and related activity. The agreement will be worked out on the basis of the use of Sri Lanka’s ports, airports, and air space to be considered hire-charges that will be converted for military hardware.
US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was the key liaison person with the Sri Lankan government. (Rocca had been a CIA officer before joining the state department.) The ACSA agreement was not finally signed until Rajapaksa came to power. It was U.S. citizen Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary Defense Minister, and brother to President Rajapaksa, who signed the agreement, on March 5, 2007. (Their younger brother, also a minister, is a US citizen as well.)
George W. Bush was especially glad for Sri Lanka’s state terrorism. In 2006, he encouraged the government to resume the civil war, which Bush financed with $2.9 million. The Pentagon provided counter-insurgency training, maritime radar, patrols of US warships and aircraft. This was a continuation of “Operation Balanced Style”, which uses U.S. Special Forces instructors since 1996.
At the end of Bush’s first term, the US was forced to cut back on aid given that it was bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. That, coupled with critical public opinion, organized by the Diaspora, of state terrorism and systematic discrimination of Tamils, prompted congress to make noises about abuses of human rights by not only LTTE but possibly by paramilitary forces linked to the S.L. government. Thousands of Tamils blocked highways in Canada, camped outside British parliament for months, some committed suicide in front of government offices, while Indian Tamils conducted paralyzing strikes. Nevertheless, in 2008, the U.S. granted $1.45 million in military financing and training to the Sri Lanka government out of a total of $7.4 million in total aid. The US made noises about a ‘humanitarian crisis’ when the Sri Lankan army was about to finish the war but it never took affirmative action to bring the war to an end nor to condemn the army or government.
Even after leading international observers, and some of the mass media, especially in the U.K. and France, began to expose the Sri Lankan government and the army’s systematic atrocities against Tamil civilians, and captured LTTE soldiers, the US continued to back up the Sri Lankan government, in contradiction to Eva Golinger. In mid-April, 2010, the U.S. and Sri Lankan military forces conducted military exercises in Eastern Seas (Trincomalee) for the first time in 25 years.
Said Lt Col Larry Smith, the US defense attache: “The joint exercise helped members from our two militaries to exchange best practices on how to address complex humanitarian challenges.”
He added: “The US and Sri Lanka have a long tradition of cooperation. We hope this partnership can be expanded.”
Documentary film-maker, John Pilger, compares Sri Lanka’s genocide of Tamils to Israel’s genocide of Palestinians:
The Sri Lankan government has learned an old lesson from, I suspect, a modern master: Israel. In order to conduct a slaughter, you ensure the pornography is unseen, illicit at best. You ban foreigners and their cameras from Tamil towns like Mulliavaikal, which was bombarded recently by the Sri Lankan army, and you lie that the 75 people killed in the hospital were blown up quite willfully by a Tamil suicide bomber.3
When the U.S. does not want to be seen on the frontlines in a war, it sends in surrogates and Israel is its main partner in this war crime. Israel was officially re-awarded diplomatic relations in May 2000, after Sri Lanka had severed them in 1970, in protest at Israel’s continued illegal expansion into Palestinian territory. Nevertheless, Israel continued to operate inside S.L. out of a special interests office set up in the US embassy. Under the table, Sri Lanka’s successive regimes embraced Israel’s military advisors, a special commando unit in the police, and Mossad counter-intelligence agents—who sought to drive a wedge between Muslims and Tamils. Israel sent Sri Lanka 16 of its supersonic Kfir fighter jets, some Dvora fast naval attack craft, and electronic and imagery surveillance equipment, plus advisors and technicians. Israel personnel took part in military attacks on Tamil units, and its pilots flew attack aircraft. Tigers shot down one Kfir. Just before the end of the war, Prime Minister Wickremanayake was in Israel to make bigger deals with Israeli arms supplies.
Sri Lankan government war crimes
Golinger even ignores ample evidence of extreme war crimes committed by her choice for president, Mahinda Rajapakse, against the minority Tamils. They have a righteous claim for liberation because of being subject to systematic discrimination, oppression and genocide.4
Sri Lanka’s first president, J.R. Jayewardene, expressed the essence of this genocide to the Daily Telegraph, on July 11, 1983. “Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.”
In May 2009, Rajapakse had all the civilians who survived his gun fire placed into concentration camps, which he called “welfare villages”, much like those the Yankees concocted in Vietnam. In violation of United Nations international rules, as many as from 280,000 to one-half million people were forced interned. Today, one year later, 100,000 remain. Only two million S.L. Tamils remain in the country. Nearly one million have fled in the past three decades.
Even the U.S.’s choice for secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, was displeased with these camps when he made a brief visit to one shortly after the war’s end:
I have traveled around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scenes I have seen…I sympathize fully with all of the displaced persons.
Several internationally respected organizations concerned about war crimes, and a few mass media journalists, have conducted interviews with IDPs, taken or viewed photographs, videos, satellite images—taken surreptitiously during the war—and have read electronic communications and documents from many sources. Some observers have been able to visit a camp or two.
On May 17, one of those organizations, the International Crisis Group, released its report, “War Crimes in Sri Lanka”. I cite from it:
The Sri Lanka security forces and the LTTE repeatedly violated international humanitarian law during the last five months of their 30-year civil war…from January 2009 to the government’s declaration of victory in May [violations worsened]. Evidence gathered by the International Crisis Group suggests that these 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.
Here is a revealing example of this evidence.
On August 25, 2009, Channel 4 News (UK) broadcast raw footage, one minute long, showing S.L. government soldiers casually executing eight bound and blindfolded, naked Tamil men, believed to be LTTE combatants. This is a war crime according to all international agreements. Rajapaska’s government denied the authenticity of the photos, apparently taken by a S.L. soldier and provided to Channel 4 through the exiled group of Sinhalese and Tamil journalists, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. But internationally renowned forensic experts have validated its authenticity.5
In a recent Channel 4 News broadcast by Jonathan Miller, two eyewitnesses spoke of systematic murder of all LTTE fighters caught or surrendered. One witness is a senior army commander: “Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off.” A frontline S.L. soldier told Miller: “Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone.”6
Even the head general in charge of defeating the LTTE, General Fonseka, spoke of having orders from the Defense Secretary to kill leaders without taking prisoners—“all LTTE leaders must be killed”.
Returning to the International Crisis Group war crimes report:
Starting in late January , the government and security forces encouraged hundreds of thousands of civilians to move into ever smaller government-declared No Fire Zones (NFZs) and then subjected them to repeated and increasingly intense artillery and mortar barrages and other fire. This continued through May despite the government and security forces knowing the size and location of the civilian population and scale of civilian casualties.
The security forces shelled hospitals and makeshift medical centres—many overflowing with the wounded and sick—on multiple occasions even though they knew of their precise locations and functions. During these incidents, medical staff, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and others continually informed the government and security forces of the shelling, yet they continued to strike medical facilities through May…
Among the charges that must be investigated, wrote ICG, is “the recruitment of children by the LTTE and the execution by the security forces of those who had laid down their arms and were trying to surrender.”
Shortly after this report, Amnesty International released its report of torture in 111 countries. Among those A.I. condemns for the “politicization of justice” is Sri Lanka’s government. It also criticizes the UN “for its failure to intervene…By the end of the year, despite further evidence of war crimes and other abuses, no-one had been brought to justice,” A.I.’s Secretary General Claudio Cordone said. “One would be hard pressed to imagine a more complete failure to hold to account those who abuse human rights.”7
Some leaders of ALBA countries may be under the impression that when westerners (A.I., ICG, Channel 4) protest about human rights abuse that this reflects the double speak language of white imperialism, or NGO imperialists. This is sometimes the case. But it is definitely not so with Sri Lanka. None of the western governments on the HRC wished to condemn Sri Lanka. They only condemned the LTTE and simply asked Sri Lanka to look into its own behavior during the war.
Do not take my word or those of A.I and ICG for this assessment alone, but look at the conclusions drawn by internationally renowned figures with impeccable solidarity credentials, such as Francois Houtart, who, among other positions, is an honorary professor at the University of Havana. He chaired an 11-judge panel looking into war crimes charges against Sri Lanka’s government and army—the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka (PPT), held in Dublin in January. Among the many supporters of the panel and their conclusions is the senior advisor to President Daniel Ortega, Miguel D’Escoto. Ironically, Nicaragua is one of the ALBA countries that praised the Sri Lanka government and voted for their resolution at the HRC. The PPT’s conclusions approximate those allegations made by the above mentioned organizations: Sri Lanka committed “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. These conclusions are found on pages 14-15 of the 50-page verdict.
On the Qualifications of the Facts
- Summing up the facts established before this Tribunal by reports from NGOs, victims’ testimony, eye-witnesses accounts, expert testimony and journalistic reports, we are able to distinguish three different kinds of human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan Government from 2002 (the beginning of the CFA) to the present:
• Forced “disappearances” of targeted individuals from the Tamil population.
Crimes committed in the re-starting of the war (2006-2009), particularly during the last months of the war:
• Bombing civilian objectives like hospitals, schools and other non-military targets;
• Bombing government-proclaimed ‘safety zones’ or ‘no fire zones’;
• Withholding of food, water, and health facilities in war zones;
• Use of heavy weaponry, banned weapons and air-raids;
• Using food and medicine as a weapon of war;
• The mistreatment, torture and execution of captured or surrendered LTTE combatants, officials and supporters;
• Rape and sexual violence against women;
• Deportations and forcible transfer of individuals and families;
• Desecrating the dead;
Human rights violations in the IDP camps during and after the end of the war:
• Shooting of Tamil citizens and LTTE supporters;
• Forced disappearances;
• Malnutrition; and
• Lack of medical supplies.8
I urge ALBA members of the Human Rights Council—Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua—along with their brothers and sisters in Venezuela to recognize an error made when they promulgated Sri Lanka’s own resolution laid before the HRC and adopted by the majority, on May 27, 2009–Resolution S-11/1, “assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights”.
The self-serving resolution only condemned the LTTE for acts of terror while praising the Sri Lankan government and supporting, naturally, its right to sovereignty. These ALBA countries, along with most members of the Non-Aligned Movement on the Council, let the entire Tamil people down, especially the Internally Displaced Persons. My assessment is shared by the people’s tribunal in paragraph 5.5:
The Tribunal stresses the responsibility of the Member States of the United Nations that have not complied with their moral obligation to seek justice for the violations of human rights committed during the last period of war. After repeated pleas, and in spite of the appalling conditions experienced by Tamils, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council failed to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate those responsible for the atrocities committed due to political pressure exerted by certain Members.
The PPT came to the opposite conclusion that Golinger does on all accounts. The US is not an actor of “aggression” against Sri Lanka’s government rather it is the case of one war criminal supporting another. The tribunal “highlights the conduct of the European Union in undermining the CFA of 2002. In spite of being aware of the detrimental consequences to a peace process in the making, the EU decided — under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom — to list the TRM (Tamil Resistance Movement, which included the LTTE) as a terrorist organization in 2006. This decision allowed the Sri Lankan Government to breach the ceasefire agreement and re-start military operations leading to the massive violations listed above. It also points to the full responsibility of those governments, led by the United States, that are conducting the so-called “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) in providing political endorsement of the conduct of the Sri Lankan Government and armed forces in a war that is primarily targeted against the Tamil people.
As solidarity activists, we advocate the right to resist and the necessity to conduct armed struggle once peaceful means fail to induce oppressive governments to engage in a process aimed at justice and equality—such is the case in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people, just as surely as it is in Palestine.
I find that most armed movements commit acts of atrocities, even acts of terror. The struggle for liberation in Cuba was an exception to the rule. Fortunately, it lasted just over two years. The armed struggle for liberation from Sinhala oppression against another indigenous group lasted for quarter of a century and, at the end, the LTTE clearly did resort to acts of desperation and terror. Other brave and righteous groups fighting for liberation, for equality and justice, such as Colombia’s FARC and Palestine’s PFLP, have also committed acts of terror. The ANC in South Africa was brutal in its struggle for liberation.
I wonder how I would act in such circumstances!
True solidarity activists have no choice. We must support the Tamil people. Today, they are in disarray. Various tendencies are in formation. But dialogue with them all is what solidarity forces must engage in around the world. One tendency is the new Provisional Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), which just formerly constituted itself in Philadelphia. Their coordinator, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, is a resident of the United States and an attorney. In February, he filed a suit in the US Supreme Court that would negate parts of the U.S. Patriotic Act and allow people to provide “material support or resources” to armed groups fighting for their liberation. Tamil Eelam advocates in the US have associated with the civil rights organization, Humanitarian Law Project, and along with supporters of the crushed LTTE and the PKK (Kurdish rebels in Turkey) are seeking to legitimize the rights of oppressed minorities to fight for liberation, if necessary with arms when peaceful means are impossible.9
My main motivation for siding with people who fight against oppression and for liberation is a matter of basic solidarity and morality, and an understanding of this necessity for the suffering people. The basic reason why so many millions of people have respected and loved Che Guevara is because of this moral stance. To back any corrupt, capitalist, genocidal government—albeit in the name of support for “sovereignty”—is not consistent with Che’s and our collective moral stance.
- See Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. [↩]
- See my pieces in Dissident Voice: “Cuba-ALBA Let Down Sri Lanka Tamils: Part 1,” November 16th, 2009; “Tamil Eelam: Historical Right to Nationhood: Part 2,” November 17th, 2009; “Equal Rights or Self-Determination: Part 3,” November 18th, 2009; “The Terrorists: International Support for Sri Lanka’s Racist Discrimination: Part 4,” November 19th, 2009; “Post-War Internment Hell: Part 5,” November 20th, 2009. [↩]
- John Pilger, “Distant Voices, Desperate Lives,” Dissident Voice, 13-5-09. [↩]
- Ron Ridenour, “Equal Rights or Self-Determination: Part 3,” Dissident Voice, November 18th, 2009. [↩]
- See “SRI LANKAN EXECUTION VIDEO ‘NOT FAKE’: Forensic Video Expert Grant Fredricks,” JDS; “Experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic — UN Special Rapporteur,” JDS. [↩]
- Jonathan Miller, “Sri Lanka Tamil killings ‘ordered from the top‘,” Channel 4 News, 18 May 2010. [↩]
- See “Amnesty’s report condemns ‘politicisation of justice’,” JDS; Amnesty International report; “Grim scenes at Sri Lankan camps where Tamil refugees have been taken – Channel 4 News,” Youtube. [↩]
- See “Full Text: Verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka,” “Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka, 14-16 January 2010; “Gun waving diplomacy: War ships and war pacts,” PTSriLanka. [↩]
- See TGTE’s website. [↩]