Friday, 23 February 2007

Slaughter in Sri Lanka, even with a ceasefire


European cease-fire monitors said Friday nearly 4,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka in the past 15 months and they emphasized the importance that the government and the rebels adhere to the cease-fire.

In contrast, during the three previous years, fewer than 130 people died in the ethnic conflict, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission said in a statement.

The government changed hands about 15 months ago following the election of President Mahinda Rajapakse over moderate leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had signed the truce deal with the rebels.

The monitoring mission was called to oversee the 2002 cease-fire. Thursday marked the fifth anniversary of the truce. Some 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before the cease-fire.

Separatist Tamil rebels began fighting in 1983 for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.1 million ethnic Tamils in the north and northeast, following decades of discrimination by the country's majority Sinhalese.

These numbers to not count the people who died from eviction and starvation; both sides cause people to have to leave their homes. The toll in human numbers is much higher than the cost of lives, but the death figures are stark nonetheless, especially considering the upward trend. Hard to believe a 'cease-fire' is in place, isn't it?

This really is a tragedy. Both sides — Tamil Tiger rebels and government officials — are acting more in the interest of themselves and their goals than than their people. Whenever one side seems ready to sit down to the negotiation table, the other stands up. Whenever peace seems near, one of the sides, often Tamil, does something to break that hope of a positive end to this conflict. One might equate it to an even more dreary version of the Basque separatist conflict Spain has been facing.

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