"No hope for Tamils within a united Sri Lanka" - Verena Graf tells UN Commission

[TamilNet, Friday, 18 March 2005, 21:28 GMT]
"The developments during the last three years compounded by the post-tsunami experiences raise the specter that time is running out; that there is no hope for the Tamils within a united Sri Lanka, that their only chance lies in fighting for external self-determination," Ms. Verena Graf, Secretary General of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, a Geneva based NGO with Special Consultative Status at the United Nations, said in her oral statement on Friday at UN Commission's 61st session on Human Rights.

The UN Commission, on Friday, started its debate on its agenda (item 5) on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation.

Following is the full text of the oral statement made by Ms. Graf:

The Tamils in Sri Lanka

"The hopes for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Sri Lanka in the wake of the ceasefire agreement of February 2002 between the then government and the LTTE as sole authentic representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils have largely proved illusory.

"Long before disaster struck the island on December 26, 2004, negotiations had been suspended, cooperation largely ceased in the face of the continued occupation of huge tracts of land in the North East by the Srilankan army in the name of 'high security zones', of hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons waiting in vain to be able to return to their homes, of lack of investment for the reconstruction of the destroyed countryside.

"The new government that came to power in 2004 has not advanced the peace process, on the contrary it contains parties totally opposed to any negotiated settlement. If anything, the tsunami that has particularly affected the coastal areas in the North East, already suffering from war related destruction and very poor in comparison to the rest of country, has worsened the situation.

"While it galvanised the common people of all communities to come to each others‘ help, the government did not follow suit. Instead of a joined effort at reconstruction and national integration the international aid has been instrumentalised for political purposes. In the name of relief measures, the distribution of aid and the planning for reconstruction have been highly centralised in the president’s office and handpicked committees at the expense of the immediate victims, including local NGOs or the Tamil Rehablitation Organisation working in the LTTE controlled areas.

"International media accounts as well as local parlamentarians have complained of government inefficiency, if not outright discrimination of the people in the North East, that includes Tamils and Muslims. More over, emergency regulations have been reintroduced, and the army put in charge of the welfare centers. Following the most recent official arms‘ purchases or the government‘s refusal to allow the UN Secretary General in early January to visit LTTE controlled areas devastated by the tsunami, have further raised suspicion that the government‘s true intentions aim not just at isolating the Tamils and their leaders but to use the catastrophy to change the balance of forces on the ground and to effectively renounce any negotiations.

"In the Norwegian facilitated peace talks, the LTTE had agreed to renounce for the time being the Sri Lankan Tamils' right as a nation for an independent homeland Tamil Eelam and to explore the possibilities to redress decades of collective discrimination within the frame-work of large-scale internal autonomy.

"The developments during the last three years compounded by the post-tsunami experiences raise the specter that time is running out; that there is no hope for the Tamils within a united Sri Lanka, that their only chance lies in fighting for external self-determination."


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