OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: When politics is just an extension of war

18 Responses

  • Hadyn Green,

    From the Herald:

    The Maori Party is traditionally reluctant to make comments on other countries...

    Don't they make comments on other countries all the time? Tariana Turia was on TV yesterday talking about Fiji. Hone Harawira went to Australia and spoke out about the treatment of Aborigines.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The Maori Party is all about being a victim.

    I've seen a lot of the Sri Lankan protests, and I've seen the harrowing images. But the LTTE are a savagely brutal and fanatical organisation who have forfeited all claim to being a desirable addition to the world community.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, there is no option other than hoping one side will achieve a decisive battlefield victory that will at least stop the killing.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    So, does Te Ururoa Flavell think that he is showing solidarity with fellow champions of ethnic self-determination with his stunt?

    You opposed the meaninglessness of Earth Hour but find great utility in a motion of the New Zealand House of Representatives? Interesting.

    You don't think that the House passing a motion condemning something or calling for something to be done ("won't somebody think of the children?") can be used to salve their consciences, instead of taking action that might actually do something ?

    Does he think it's okay for the LTTE to free their people by using their corpses as PR props?

    That's a charge many would lay against Palestine...

    That said, if Jim Anderton really wants to raise this matter in the House, he has a simple option that will completely avoid the need to get permission from everyone:

    1. Put his motion on notice.
    2. Arrange someone (Grant Robertson?) to ask him an oral question about it. It doesn't even waste one of Labour's questions, but becomes an additional one for the day.

    I don't know that it has ever been done. But it's so obvious, I'm kinda at a loss to know why...

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Any group of 'freedom fighters' jump the shark the moment they set off a car bomb.

    As Mike Davis starkly describes it:

    Fourth, like even the "smartest" of aerial bombs, car bombs are inherently indiscriminate: "collateral damage" is virtually inevitable. If the logic of an attack is to slaughter innocents and sow panic in the widest circle, to operate a "strategy of tension", or just demoralize a society, car bombs are ideal. But they are equally effective at destroying the moral credibility of a cause and alienating its mass base of support, as both the IRA and the ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna, or Basque Fatherland and Liberty) separatist movement in Spain have independently discovered. The car bomb is an inherently fascist weapon.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    ...They've gathered in large numbers, displaying photos showing the grotesque aftermath of war, and calling for a stop to the “genocide” of Tamils.

    They seem like perfectly genuine people when they tell me that they don’t care who wins, they just want the killing to stop. Yet, Nirmala Rajasingam, a Sri Lankan Tamil activist in London, makes a powerful point:

    If the opposition is undertaking your genocide then surrendering your civillians to them is never a good idea. The narrative is genocide, it would be odd to turn up to one of these rallies with a sign saying in effect "Send Tamils to Conentration Camps".

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    You opposed the meaninglessness of Earth Hour but find great utility in a motion of the New Zealand House of Representatives? Interesting.

    I don't find great utility in it, no. It was a futile but, for lack of a better word, nice gesture in a situation where no clean solution exists.

    Flavell's blocking of the motion was an expression of some pretty perverse value judgements, but it wasn't any less futile. As I said, if the government stops shooting, it doesn't mean that any civilians will get saved, or that the war will be peacefully resolved.

    But it's not just that Harawira/Flavell's suggestion was pointless, it was more the fact that they were basing it on the idea that ethnic-separatists = right, (pseudo)colonial government = wrong, and allowing such simplistic value judgements to overshadow both reality and basic decency.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Any group of 'freedom fighters' jump the shark the moment they set off a car bomb.

    Not saying that terrorism is justifiable, but uneven among unjustifiable actions, there are degrees.

    There's a big difference, in my mind, between the indiscriminant killing of enemy civilians via bombings, versus the deliberate killing of your own civilians to threaten them into staying in an area where they will die.

    I think the most repulsive part of the latter argument is that the war is no longer the means, but the end, and lives are the means to win the war.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    If the opposition is undertaking your genocide then surrendering your civillians to them is never a good idea. The narrative is genocide, it would be odd to turn up to one of these rallies with a sign saying in effect "Send Tamils to Conentration Camps".

    I don't think anyone actually thinks of these UN camps as concentration camps, not even those who call the war a campaign of genocide.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Human Rights Watch put out a very informative report last year on how the LTTE suppresses dissent outside Sri Lanka. Extortion, violence, assassination, and other forms of intimidation and 'fundraising' are rife.

    These tactics are very well known inside Sri Lanka. The LTTE can legitimately claim to be the only organisation representing Tamils, for the simple reason that every other organisation has been systematically annihilated, and publicly calling for peace or other forms of resolution that do not result in a Tamil state, is a very bad move if you value your life. A Sri Lankan Tamil friend of mine would love to go back and help bring peace, but that simply isn't an option. She isn't suicidal.

    I was very disturbed recently to see Maire Leadbeater of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission on stage at a LTTE-supporting rally, wearing a "Tamil Eelam" t-shirt. She didn't seem to realise that the rally wasn't calling for peace, it was calling for a cessation of hostilities on the part of the Govt of Sri Lanka. There is a very big difference.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Ruby Dhaya,

    Dear Keith,
    I am very glad to read that you have visited Sri Lanka and the refugee camps there. However the content of your last post is by all means very deceptive to the average reader. You have portrayed some theories that are part of the Sri Lankan propaganda as the ultimate truth. Your personal interpretation of the situation in Sri Lanka is definitely far from reality.

    The first paragraph itself is ridiculous. It is an absurd statement that you did not see a single man in the refugee camps!!!!! The military very often separates women and children from men. You must have certainly entered the area for female refugees. Also you should realize that there are 3 zones currently. The war zone, the so called ‘rehabilitation’ zone containing the camps and the SCREENING ZONE. Noone knows what is going on in this particular ‘screening’ zone. There have been no reports and no one is permitted in there.

    We Tamils know how the SL militiary handles Tamil people especially young Tamil men since we have experienced it first hand. Any able bodied Tamil man is a threat to them, potentially a fighter or a future fighter for the Tamil Tigers. Even Tamil men in southern Sri Lanka get taken for questioning by the police or the intelligence agency and never return. You think the army is going to let go of such a great opportunity to do away with Tamil men during this war where they are not being questioned for any of their actions?

    Those ‘credible, independent reports’ that you are mentioning are all prepared interviewing refugees inside the camps run by the SL military. Even people living in their homes in Southern Sri Lanka fear to speak out dreading the actions of the government’s para military forces. You really believe that you will obtain reliable information from people caught up in the camps dependent on the hand outs from the military? Be realistic!

    Why do you think the Sri Lankan government is not permitting media and aid agencies into the war zones? What do they have to hide? Why is the media not allowed to talk to any of the refugees freely? Those few that are permitted to interview need to be accompanied by Sl soldiers. Why?

    Human shields, forced recruitment, child soldiers – they ARE creations of government propaganda!!!!

    The Sri Lankan government’s thank you note to the Maori party in NZ is just a great example of how they continuously work towards distracting the world of the Tamil’s legitimate right for self-determination. It is a cheap and laughable attempt.

    Over 30 years of oppression and discrimination has to come to an end. A peaceful united Sri Lanka is a dream that will never become true. Successive Sri Lankan government have not kept their promises to the minority Tamil people. Numerous riots have shown the attitude of an average Sinhala person. My own family was outed by Singhala people that they thought were their friends 1983. Women were raped and children killed. Amnesty International and other entities such as the New York based Genocide Prevention project have stated that Sri Lanka is carrying out genocidal acts against the Tamil race.

    After all this, you expect the Tamils would opt to be governed by the same government that has been marginalizing and trying to wipe them out for the past 30 years? The 2006 peace process is an example that the Sri Lankan government would never want to give the Tamils any equal rights. Just as we thought the Tamils were actually getting somewhere the SL government backed out of it and opted for war.

    Yes, there is no single placard asking the tigers to let the civilians go since we Tamils know them better than anyone else in this world. They are our family, our brothers and sisters who are fighting for us, for our rights. We are not going to be deceived by the Sri Lankan government the same way as the international community is.
    A ceasefire will save our kith and kin that are dying. The government has been stating for months that there are only a few hundred LTTE fighters left. Yet they have killed almost 7000 Tamil civilians during this period. Is this a fair price to pay for a few hundred Tamil Tigers? Would they continue this attack if these civilians were Sinhalese? I tell you they wouldn't! There would be an uproar all over Sri Lanka. But afterall these are just Tamil lives so the rest of the country is happy to watch this killing spree continue.

    We the Tamil diaspora are the only voice for those who are suffering in Vanni. The Tamils in southern Sri Lanka are restricted since they have to safeguards their own lives. Even here in New Zealand you will see Singhala people showing up to protests with cameras zooming in on all attendees. I assume they are trying to come across as a threat. It is laughable really. We will continue to do everything in our power to end this war . What we need is the commitment from the Sri Lankan government to negotiate with the Tamils and come to an agreement that will result in a political solution instead of an artificially created united Sri Lanka. They themselves know that if that is the way there will never be peace and most importantly no dignity for the Tamils.

    Since May 2009 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Ruby Dhaya,

    Regarding the following statement by keith:
    I don't think anyone actually thinks of these UN camps as concentration camps, not even those who call the war a campaign of genocide.

    You are absolutely wrong. Not sure where you are getting this idea from. These camps are concentration camps that are managed by the military. We need monitoring missions. Noone should trust the SL government and especially not the SL army.
    There are insider reports describing acts ranging from slavery, rape to forced abortion for Tamil women. The government is mentioning that they would keep refugees there for 3, 5 and even 10 years. I will tell you why. Why? If it is demining then the international community should focus sending money to aid the demining projects instead of aid to these concentration camps. This aid is just freeing up more and more money for SL to buy arms and kill more and fill up these camps with more Tamils . Children who grow up in these camps (if they survive that is) will not develop like ordinary kids. Parents are killed in the war and a dependancy on handouts. No employment, no permission to leave the camps or receive visitors. Imagine the mental state the people in these camps are in. Meanwhile the SL government will go on resettling Singhalese thugs into the Tamil areas who will ensure that any Tamils if they ever get to live in their homes again are kept quite and under control. To many this may sound unbelievable but Tamils who lived there in the 80s and 90s will nto what I am talkign about. This is the strategy that the SL government has been following. Also diluting the Tamil population in the East will give them an added advantage when it comes to elections. As if that is even required since we are not really represented in parliament by a fair number!
    Please think before judging...extend your horizons a little at least

    Since May 2009 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Human shields, forced recruitment, child soldiers – they ARE creations of government propaganda!!!!

    Ruby, you're full of it.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    That isn't to say that the Government of Sri Lanka are anything but fuckin terrible themselves. Both sides have plenty of people who should be pulled up for crimes against humanity. Again from HRW, this photo essay is worth a watch.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Ruby Dhaya,

    Oh one more thing Keith. Regarding

    don't think anyone actually thinks of these UN camps as concentration camps, not even those who call the war a campaign of genocide.

    You must surely know that these camps are NOT run by the UN if you have really walked through them...please get your facts right...they are government controlled and government run camps. The UN has no involvement...well not yet at least...

    Since May 2009 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Ruby Dhaya,

    Since May 2009 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Anna Ponna,

    Although the link you provided (for your visit to the refugee camps)led me to a post that was written in 2007, the story is very similar. The young men are usually separated by the army and are generally killed. That’s what happened in 2007 and that’s what’s happening now. People and families who come to the camps are separated. Men, women and children are separated and taken to different areas. You can see the pictures yourself from your 'most trusted' website (defence.lk). I can send you more if you need some.


    As you can see from the pictures each bus contains either women or men. THEY ARE BEING SEPARATED.

    The situation is even worse now. It’s not just the young men who are taken away and killed, many young women have been assaulted, raped and killed as well. The government is eliminating thousands of young people during the screening process.
    After 9/11, the line between terrorists and freedom fighters has been erased.

    A journalist has to be objective when reporting any news, especially controversial subjects like this. You have just read one side of the story; some anti-LTTE activist and government sites, who haven’t even given a credible chance to the other side
    You have to go back and read the history of the conflict. The conflict started as soon as Sri Lanka gained independence. The armed struggle only started following many peace protest with no apparent results.

    "There have been credible, independent reports of civilians being forced to remain in the warzone by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers); then when civilian are slaughtered, this is used as evidence of the Sri Lankan government's brutality (warning – disturbing pictures) ."

    How can you say that the reports are ‘credible and independent’ when there are no independent media present in the conflict zone? The government has banned all the independent media and NGOs a long time ago. One of the main demands of Tamil Diaspora overseas is to allow independent media to monitor the events in Sri Lanka. If the government has nothing to hide and not doing anything wrong, why does it not allow independent media to the conflict zone?
    Many countries and human rights organizations have said that Sri Lanka is now one of the most dangerous places in the world for human rights defenders - broadly defined to include journalists, aid workers, activists and NGO workers.

    "They seem like perfectly genuine people when they tell me that they don't care who wins, they just want the killing to stop. Yet, Nirmala Rajasingam, a Sri Lankan Tamil activist in London, makes a powerful point:
    ...in all the demonstrations not a single cry, slogan or placard seems to demand that the Tigers should let the civilians go or cease their own assaults on them. The silence of the diaspora community on this issue is deafening... There is no recognition in these demonstrations of the fact that the military objectives of the LTTE are no longer reconcilable with the safety of the trapped civilians. There is a disjunction between propaganda and reality here that reflects the way the logic of Tamil Tiger propaganda has become internalised by much of the diaspora. This does nothing to help Sri Lankan Tamils."

    I ask you again. What proof do you have that the tigers are stopping civilians from leaving? Many people who participate in the protests and demonstrations have been effected by this war. I personally know so many who have lost close family members in the last four months and many people whose family are still in the conflict zone. These people whole heartedly support the LTTE. Why do you think that is? Because they know very well, what’s been happening there. Most of the civilians do not want to leave the LTTE controlled areas because of the fear of being tortured, raped and killed by the government forces.

    ‘I don't think anyone actually thinks of these UN camps as concentration camps, not even those who call the war a campaign of genocide’

    Are you kidding me? I am not sure the camps you visited in 2007 had any associations with UN. But the camps that are set up now around the conflict zone has nothing to do with UN. The UN has asked access to these camps many times and been denied. As I said before, the government has banned all the independent media and NGOs from the conflict zone and is even refusing to let them into these camps.
    These camps are barbed wired camps where they are kept as prisoners. Aid agencies, foreign diplomats and Journalists are not allowed to see these notorious camps except to the one that is used only for propaganda purposes. Children are separated from their parents and sent to different camps. Yes these do resemble concentration camps.

    I beg you to read through all the facts and think objectively about them before writing.

    PS: LTTE was formed only thirty years ago after Tamils have been protesting in al forms of non-violence ways without any results. Tamils have been discriminated since Sri Lanka gained independence. The root of the problem has to be dealt with to come up with any sensible solutions.
    Having said all this, LTTE consist of human beings as well. They have evolved over thirty years to an organisation that is capable of running a government for Tamils. They have shown that they can do it. Nobody is denying that the LTTE have made mistakes in the past. There are many governments who have made huge mistakes (like Bush government invading Iraq) but that didn’t disqualify them from governing people. Right and wrongs are not black and white as they sound, the actions has to be viewed within the context it happened. You can’t write them off as terrorists just because they made some mistakes in the early stages. They have developed into a mature and disciplined organisation.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    "The real depressing thing is that heavy shelling *is* the government's attempt to evacuate refugees."

    Fuck off and die, Keith.

    Since Nov 2006 • 609 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Fuck off and die, Keith.

    I'm pretty sure this is actually a barbed description of the SL government's justifications, not ones that Keith approves of. I understand that there are strong feelings here, but, y'know...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

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