April 24, 2009, Sri Lanka
– Farooq Tariq, Lahore
An appeal to the international civil society to act immediately to prevent further destruction in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is in a dire situation that begs for the attention of the world community focused on it and for urgent action immediately followed to avoid further destruction.
Sri Lanka government backed by the Sinhala supremacist oppressors, has almost crushed the struggle of the Tamils for their rights, in order to retain the structure the Lankan state as a Sinhala chauvinist regime. For as much as a half a century, the Sinhala supremacist governments have repeatedly avoided granting the political rights of the national minorities within the post-colonial state structure. Instead, they pushed the Tamil minority to the wall through repeated pogroms and terror actions to repress latter’s non-violent struggles to win their rights. Eventually this caused the upsurge of a ferocious armed struggle.
The government of Lanka manipulates the conceptual definition of terrorism to legitimize repression of minority rights and to muster support of the global powers to crush the struggles for rights. In 2008, the government unilaterally revoked the cease fire and moved away from the peace process brokered under the patronage of the Co-chairs of the donor-community. In the process of total annihilation of the struggle of the Tamils for their democratic rights, the government banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and declared war against Tamil radicalism. The media access to the conflict zone was effectively blocked and later the government, ordered the humanitarian organizations as well to evacuate their offices, and expelled the international staff. At the peak of the siege, the state ordered the government health staff too to vacate the hospitals. All these measures were taken while carrying on a massive military onslaught via land, sea and air targeting the traditional dwellings of the Tamil people in Northern Province of Lanka.
People were uprooted from their dwellings and made internally displaced in multiple times. Their houses were shelled and bombed, cultivations and other property were devastated and the entire environmental topography was demolished beyond repair. At the culmination of this military onslaught, the state urged the people to move into a government-designat ed no-fire zone in a small patch of land in an area where basic amenities were so scarce for such a massive population.
Later, the government repeatedly shelled and carpet bombed parts of the no-fire zone too in the guise of hunting terrorists. Now they have advanced into the no-fire zone naming the operation a ‘hostage rescue mission’ killing and miming thousands of civilians. There are allegations that the government is using chemical weapons as well against the Tamil Tiger rebels disregarding the impact on the civilians huddled in the small area.
This warfare is totally against the accepted norms of war and the international law. Sri Lanka government denies these charges stating that the allegations are mere propaganda of the Tamil Tigers. Independent verification is impossible since free media and humanitarian organizations sans ICRC are blocked entry into the conflict zone.
The government has detained thousands of internally displaced civilians in heavily guarded concentration- styled camps in an environment of thoroughly restricted mobility. They call these places as ‘welfare centers’. Even the UN agency staff members that have moved out of the no-fire zone are held in these camps in the guise of screening terrorists.
Several months back, the government submitted a proposal to embassies in Colombo seeking financial assistance to set up semi-permanent camps for 200,000 civilians for three years. Thus this is not the first time. The government, in the recent past, during operations in the east, retained an area named Sampur in the Eastern Province without allowing the residents to resettle. Now the discussions are underway to set up a coal power plant in the lands of those residents without compensating them. Thus, there is a racially-oriented ploy to change the demography behind the devastation of the traditional lands of Tamils while holding them for a long period in concentration camps.
-We, representing the civil society of the island, extend our deepest regrets over the inaction and the silent approval given to Lankan regime by the international good governance systems like UN amidst these unfathomed crimes of Lankan rulers and their allies.
-We urge the international community, especially the international civil society not to allow Sri Lankan government, to manipulate the so-called fight against terrorism to win support of the UN and other authorities, and to continue with chauvinist state terrorism on the minority Tamil community.
-International community should urge authorities like UN and the donor forum of Sri Lanka to compel the government to stop war immediately and begin an internationally monitored peace process aimed at a sustainable solution to the dragging national problem of the country.
-The right of people to their traditional villages should be defended. Compensation should be paid for the damages done to their life and property and help must be given to reconstruct their lives.
-Immediately unblock the access of the media and the humanitarian organizations into the areas of the internally displaced and war affected people live, and guarantee their freedom of expression.
Dr. Vickramabahu Karunarathne
Prof. Sucharitha Gamlath
Prof. Jayantha Senewirathne
Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri
Dr. Terence Purasinghe
Chandrapala Kumarage (attorney at Law)
Servant Yohan Devananda