World must rein in Sri Lankan state – TNA

[TamilNet, Saturday, 22 September 2007, 11:13 GMT]
Protesting that the Sri Lankan government had discarded negotiating a settlement to the island’s ethnic conflict, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)urged the international community to take a principled stand on the Tamil people’s right to self determination. Outlining the humanitarian and human rights crisis that has emerged in the wake of Colombo’s military project, the TNA also argued: “the Sri Lankan State will not conform to international norms or standards. It is only by the International Community … taking meaningful steps, can the Sri Lankan State be made to realize that it cannot continue with the present disastrous trend.”

The full text of the TNA statement, released two days before President Mahinda Rajapakse is due to address the United Nations’ General Assembly, follows:

The TNA learns through media reports that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to address the Plenary of the Sixty Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly. It has been the long standing practice of the Sri Lankan State to use such opportunities to portray the conflict between the Tamil Nation and the Sri Lankan State as one of combating terrorism. In this regard the TNA wishes to state the following:-

The Tamil people who have a history of their own, for over two thousand five hundred years in the island, and who mainly inhabited the North – Eastern part of the island, have their own linguistic and cultural identity, and have always constituted a distinct nation.

The Northern and Eastern Provinces are preponderantly Tamil speaking territory occupied by the Tamil people, and also the Muslim people, whose mother tongue is Tamil. Prior to independence, the Sinhalese people whose mother tongue is Sinhala, constituted a small minority in this territory.

The Tamil people have strived to realize the right to self determination in the North East, their area of historical habitation. Since 1956, the democratic verdicts of the Tamil people in the North-East, at every successive election, have overwhelmingly supported this demand for self determination. All activities by the Tamil people in support of this demand were non-violent and peaceful.

The Sri Lankan State has consistently denied the right to self determination to the Tamil people, and through the 1972 and 1978 Constitutions enacted without the consent of the Tamil people, enshrined the unitary system of government which is the antithesis of the right to self- determination. Racial pogroms were unleashed against the Tamil people. Moderate Tamil political leadership over a period of three decades, despite valiant efforts failed to achieve positive results.

It was in these circumstances that an armed struggle by the Tamil people commenced to defend the themselves from the genocidal intent of the Sri Lankan State and to further the struggle to realize the right to self determination. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are at the forefront leading this struggle for self determination of the Tamil people. Due to the intransigence of the Sri Lankan State, the struggle yet continues.

Developments since the assumption of office by President Mahinda Rajapaksa After the assumption of office of the incumbent President, the violence against Tamil Civilians has been a continuing phenomenon, and has escalated since 2006. The Government has since 2006 pursued military operations, in flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement signed in 2002 between the Sri Lankan State and the LTTE.

Such military operations have consisted of aerial bombardment and heavy artillery fire, including the use of multi-barrel rockets into civilian populated areas. Though the Government claims that such attacks were directed against identified LTTE targets, the victims have very frequently and mainly been Tamil civilians. Houses, public buildings, plantations, livestock, agricultural and fishing equipment, and other personal belongings were largely destroyed.

The supplies of food and medicine to the civilian population in the affected villages by the civilian authorities have been obstructed by the Armed Forces, thus using food as a weapon of war. International and Domestic NGOs and Aid workers were denied access to these areas.

Blatant Humanitarian and Human Rights violations It is reported that the total number of extrajudicial killings of Tamil Civilians, suspected to have been carried out by the Sri Lankan State Armed Forces and its paramilitary groups in the North - East was around 3900 in 2006, and over 700 were killed in the North – East in the first quarter of 2007. Over the past one year over 1000 Tamils are believed to have “disappeared”.

The Sri Lankan Armed forces are over 99% Sinhalese, the Police forces are over 95% Sinhalese, and are openly hostile to the Tamil people. The Tamil people look upon the Sri Lankan Armed forces as an Army of occupation and have every reason to fear that the massacre of Tamil civilians will continue.

Over 300,000 Tamil civilians have been displaced in the North – East, consequent to the present military operations. Around 20,000 Tamil civilians have fled across the seas and sought refuge in South India. Over 250,000 Tamil Civilians displaced by Tsunami have not yet been resettled. Over 300,000 Tamil Civilians displaced during the earlier phase of violence have not yet been resettled. The Government is attempting to hurriedly resettle some of the Tamil Civilians displaced in the recent military operations. They are not being compensated for the immense destruction they have suffered nor for the death of their kith and kin. They are not being provided with proper housing, nor their means of livelihood; their farming equipment, fishing equipment, and livestock have been destroyed.

Recently the Sri Lankan State has been declaring large tracts of Tamil areas as High Security Zones, and judging by past experience, it is unlikely that the displaced Tamil civilian population would be allowed to resettle in these areas. These Tamil civilians are historical inhabitants of these areas, and have lived in these villages for generations and centuries. They are being denied their basic fundamental human rights. This action of the Government is tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

The forced eviction of Tamil civilians from Colombo on 7th June 2007 clearly reflected the Government’s hostility towards the Tamil people collectively.

Dilatory political process – a charade The Government claims to be committed to the evolution of a negotiated political solution. Apart from setting up the All Parties Representatives Committee (A.P.R.C), the Government has not in the past eighteen months demonstrated its commitment to the evolution of a political solution acceptable to Tamil people.

The political process has been taken more than half a century backwards by this Government. The A.P.R.C is merely meandering with no clear political objective and in our submission is an exercise in futility. The A.P.R.C is no more than a mere charade to mislead the International Community.

Furthermore, the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement of 29th July 1987 recognized that the Northern and Eastern Provinces were the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people and made provision for the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as one Unit, for the purpose of the Tamil speaking people sharing powers of governance. The merger was effected, and acted upon by four successive Presidents and Governments, for over a period of 18 Years.

After the assumption of office of the incumbent President, the merged North-East which has been the corner-stone for any possible negotiations process has been de-merged. Steps have been taken to administer the two provinces separately. The institutionalization of the de-merger has inevitably resulted in the loss of any prospects of furthering a negotiated settlement.

The Sri Lankan State’s objective is to resolve the Tamil National question by military means. We strongly submit that the Sri Lankan State will not conform to international norms or standards. We further submit that it is only by the International Community taking a principled stand on the question of the right to self determination of the Tamil people and by taking meaningful steps, can the Sri Lankan State be made to realize that it cannot continue with the present disastrous trend.

TNA Foreign Relations Committee


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