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China aids Tamil death toll cover-up

The Tamil people have paid a shocking price in their struggle for self-determination and now the truth about the massacres perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military near the end of the civil war is being covered up. An explanation for this is to be found in the economic and military ambitions of China, Russia, India and the Pacific Rim states of Malaysia and Indonesia.

News has emerged that well over 20,000 Tamil civilians – three times the official UN figure – were killed in the so-called no-fire zone in the north of Sri Lanka during April and May. Earlier, the UN had set the number of civilians killed in the camps during the final clashes between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at 8,000.

The number of deaths has caused a crisis at the UN, whose Human Rights Council last week issued an unbelievable statement actually praising the Sri Lankan government for its commitment to human rights and humanitarian efforts after its defeat of the Tigers and murder of their leaders. The resolution was tabled by Sri Lanka itself and was seen as an endorsement of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ferocious military campaign against the Tiger movement.

Meanwhile, Times’ reporters have pieced together the true picture of casualties using a range of sources including aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and testimony from independent defence experts. The paper made its calculations using confidential UN documents. A Roman Catholic priest, Father Amalraj who was amongst the Tamil refugees confirmed the figure of 20,000. One UN source told reporters that probably even more had been killed. It also made clear that the Colombo regime’s claim that Tiger mortar fire was responsible for the deaths was a bare-faced lie.

The UN estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 people have now died in one of Asia's longest modern wars. Tigers began their fight for a separate state for Sri Lanka's in 1983 after decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese government.

But who underpinned and armed Sri Lanka’s final military push against the Tamils and the extermination programme launched against civilians and fighters alike in the north of the country? Military analysts in the US and India see Chinese neo-imperial ambitions as a major factor. China’s aid to Colombo grew from a few million dollars in 2005 to almost $1 billion in 2008. Other major donors include Iran with a $1 billion soft loan and Libya which is about to lend another $500 million.

China became Sri Lanka’s biggest arms supplier in the 1990s and increased sales significantly in April 2007. It even supplied six F7 jet fighters free of charge last year after a raid by the Tigers destroyed ten military planes in 2007. Apart from financial, military and logistical support, the Chinese government supported Sri Lanka’s resolution last week at the UN alongside Russia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, which cleared Colombo of any wrongdoing.

China’s ambitions are a combination of economic and military strategy. It has begun to build a £660 million port at Hambantota, Sri Lanka’s southern coast. While Beijing claims this is purely for commercial use, Sri Lanka’s position has always been key to transport and control in the Indian Ocean. The Royal Navy used Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s north east coast until 1957 and still shares a naval base in Diego Garcia near Mauritius with the US.

China, along with India, also backs the brutal dictatorship in Burma which is laying waste to ethnic groups like the Karen people and is wreaking havoc throughout Africa as it vies with US and European oil and mineral interests. Countless people in Asia and Africa, as well as the Tamils, face annihilation at the hands of the rising capitalist powers who have picked up where the old imperialist states left off.

Tamil campaigners are appealing for support for Tim Martin, who has joined the round the clock demonstrations outside the House of Commons. Martin, a former aid worker and the Campaign Director of Act Now, began an indefinite hunger strike outside Parliament, on Monday 18th May.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
1 June 2009

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