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Sri Lanka massacre exposed

A recent TV documentary has exposed the massacre of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan army during the last days of the civil war. By Sean Ambler

SRI LANKA’S war against the Tamil Tigers was brutal and amounted to a genocide against a whole population: that we already knew. But in June a TV programme showed the extent of the killing. This climaxed in a gruesome orgy of killing of 40,000 civilians by the Sri Lankan army in the last weeks of the war.

Channel 4’s exposé, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, shows mobile phone footage of extra-judicial killings, shelling of civilian refugee camps and the rape of Tamil women.

The evidence shows the “no fire zones” created by the Sri Lankan Army were far from that and used to justify killings of civilians who tried to flee from them.

These kinds of war crimes are increasingly a part of ethnic conflicts, but as the reporter in the film Jon Snow points out these eclipse even “Central America in the 1980s” where the crimes of US backed regimes exceeded even the toleration of Hollywood, which produced films such as Salvador exposing their brutality.

Similarly, here the crimes cannot be seen as the work of a rogue state acting outside the influence and wishes of the international system.

There is increasing evidence that the desire to clear large areas of the East of Tamils was in part motivated by the Sri Lankan government’s deals with China for ports in the Indian Ocean. Similarly American, European and other Western businesses are looking to Sri Lanka as a potential location for cheap production for which ‘stability’ is a business necessity. This led these countries to ignore the Sri Lankan government’s war against the Tamils or, like David Miliband, issue weak, late, meaningless protests against it.

The Sri Lankan government responded to the film with complaints that Channel 4 lacks “standards and fairness” and is investigating ways to sue the broadcasters. This shows that the Sri Lankan government feels confident that the imperialist states will continue to ignore the massacre.

Workers Power’s sister organisation in Sri Lanka, the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka, fights against the oppression of the Tamils and the Sinhala chauvinism which allowed it to take place. Rajapakse was a war criminal and we said it openly.

Sinhala chauvinism isn’t a product of some primordial hatred between two peoples, but the result of conscious policies of the British empire to ‘divide and rule’.

Overcoming this ethnic hatred will require the destruction of the imperialist system where the West still benefits from these ethnic tensions. A strong internationalist movement – rooted in the working class – will be key to freeing Sri Lanka from imperialist interference and manipulation.

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