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Home  > International Relations in the Age of EmpireInternational Frame & the Tamil Struggle > Australia.& the Tamil Eelam Struggle > Australasian Federation of  Tamil Associations Meet Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle

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the tamil Struggle for freedom

Australasian Federation of  Tamil Associations
Meet Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle

Australian Tamils Seek a Principled Approach
to the Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka
6 August 2007

Senator Kerry Nettle
Australian Greens� Senator for New South Wales
Parliament House
Canberra Act 2600

Dear Senator

Australian Tamils Seek a Principled Approach to the Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

On behalf of its member associations, The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) wishes to thank you for seeing a delegation on 6 August 2007 to discuss the Australian Greens� position on the conflict in Sri Lanka.

AFTA also appreciates your genuine interest shown towards the plight of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers currently being processed in Nauru and your sound understanding of the plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

On this occasion, we wish to present to you the daily deteriorating law and order situation in Sri Lanka and seek your principled approach on the need to,

� condemn the state terror directed against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka for over five decades,

� provide humanitarian assistance to the needy

� recognize the national liberation struggle of the genocidally oppressed Tamil nation in that island; and

� draw a distinction between blatant terrorism and legitimate national liberation struggles

Appalling Human Rights Violations

Abductions, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and extrajudicial killing of Tamil civilians are continuing in the state controlled parts of the Tamil homeland and in other parts of the island.

Sahathevan Deluxshan, a 22 year old media student at Jaffna University Media Research and Training Center and a part time journalist was shot dead Wednesday around 5:00 am by unidentified gunmen in front of his house. Varman, another energetic and young journalist who was one of the organizers of Sivaram's first death anniversary, was shot dead allegedly by paramilitary members operating with Sri Lanka Army and police in Jaffna peninsula.

The brazen killing of the young and promising media student and many youths being killed summarily armed men right inside Sri Lanka Army (SLA) High Security Zone (HSZ) in recent times, has paralysed the people of Jaffna peninsula, civil activists in Jaffna have stated according to news reports.

On Friday June 1, two Tamil volunteers from the Sri Lankan Red Cross, Batticaloa office, attending a training course on tsunami programs in Colombo, were abducted by men claiming to be from the Sri Lankan Police. The British High Commissioner in Colombo, Dominick Chilcott condemned the kidnapping and killing of two Red Cross workers and had stated that �targeting people who work for the Red Cross, an organization renowned for its strict neutrality and determination to assist those in need irrespective of their origins, is particularly contemptible.'' The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) country team comprising UN agencies and its partner NGOs Oxfam and Save the Children has called for an immediate independent inquiry into these killings.

This is not the first time NGO workers have been murdered in cold blood reportedly by the Sri Lankan security forces or their paramilitaries. 14 NGO workers belonging to the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation were abducted by the paramilitaries closely operating with the Sri Lankan security forces more than a year ago and at least 10 of them have been pronounced dead.

Criticising the probe into the massacre of 17 aid workers of French NGO Internationale Centre la Faim (ACF) in Muttur last year as flawed, the official observer of International Committee of Jurists (ICJ), Michael Brinbaum, said the investigators had hastily acted on the presumption that the killings were done by the LTTE, and the mid-hearing substitution of a Tamil magistrate was "unlawful."

Some 140 Tamil civilians have been abducted from Colombo alone in the past year and 18 were later found dead, according to the Civil Monitoring Committee, a Sri Lankan independent group that has campaigned against kidnappings. Hundreds more have been taken away by unknown men in the north and east, where the fighting is concentrated.

Indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling of Tamil villages in the Tamil homeland are continuing, killing innocent civilians and resulting in displacement and denial of livelihood to thousands.

Over 4000 people have died as a result of the breakdown of the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in the past 18 months.

The acts mentioned above, perpetrated by the state, are in violation of human rights and the international law governing armed conflict and should be condemned outright.

Sri Lankan Government�s Intransigence

Despite repeated pleas directed from the international community that there is no military solution and the parties to the conflict will need to resume peace talks, the Sri Lankan government has been pursuing a military path.

Further, the Sri Lankan state has miserably failed to protect the lives of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government is continuing to carry out military operations giving callous disregard to human suffering. These operations deny the Tamil people of their right to life, shelter and livelihood. The Sri Lankan state�s other oppressive measures include denial of free flow of essential supplies of goods and services to the Tamil population and freedom of movement essentially using the people as a human shield. Further, their freedom of expression also is at stake with Tamil academics, civil leaders, parliamentarians, youth leaders and journalists being killed in cold blood by Sri Lankan security forces and their paramilitaries for being critical of state oppression.

The Sri Lankan state has completely ignored the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement. Against the sprit of this agreement they have been carrying out a demonising campaign against the Tamil representatives namely the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Tamil diaspora who have been raising the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka and providing humanitarian assistance to the needy.

Only effective diplomatic sanctions imposed on the Sri Lankan racist state could pressure them to see the reason to end violence and implement the 2002 CFA in full to restore normalcy so that meaningful peace negotiations could commence between the parties to the conflict.

The Existence of a de jure State for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka

In the view of Ms. Karen Parker, chief delegate for International Educational Development - Humanitarian Law Project, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) accredited by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), �the Tamils have a de jure State: they have the right to self-determination, the Tamil lands are those lands attached to that right, they are present in their land and they have a Tamil civil administration governing it. This is a de jure State.�

Only in the LTTE controlled areas the people are enjoying law and order with the de jure state having its own police force, judicial system, civil administration and armed forces taking defensive action against indiscriminate attacks directed against the civilians by the Sri Lankan security forces and their paramilitaries. It is this ground reality that paved the way for the formulation of the 2002 CFA by the Royal Norwegian Government with the support of the international community at large.

Tamils of Sri Lanka have a right to decide their own Political Destiny

Historically, two groups of people have shared the Island of Sri Lanka -those who spoke Sinhalese occupying the centre, south and west of the Island and a smaller group who spoke Tamil in the Northeast. The former were Buddhists and the latter Hindus.

The first of the colonial powers, the Portuguese (1505-1614) found the Island to comprise Tamil and Sinhalese Kingdoms and in their dealings treated them as such. The Dutch who followed them (1614 to 1796) did the same. In 1799 Hugh Cleghorn, the first British Colonial Secretary noted this and wrote as follows.

�Two different nations, from a very ancient period, had divided between them the possession of the Island. First the Cinhalese (Sinhalese) inhabiting the interior of the country, in its southern and western parts, from the River Wallowe to that of Chillaw, and secondly the Malabars (Tamils), who posses the northern and eastern districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religions, language and manners...� - Extracts from the minutes of Hugh Cleghorn, the First Colonial Secretary, in 1799.

Having ruled the entire Island as a single entity, the British, granted it independence in 1948 under a unitary constitution. This constitution ignored the multi-national character of the Island, by allowing political power to be exercised through a unitary form of Government. The net result was that political power was vested essentially with the numerically larger Sinhala nation.

Sinhala politicians elected to office under the unitary constitution used their numbers in parliament to perpetuate Sinhala hegemony through legislative and administrative measures. The attached AFTA document titled �Resolving the Conflict in Sri Lanka - A Tamil Perspective� (February 2007) provides a brief outline of the history of the conflict.

By mid 1970�s, the Tamils tired of the Sinhala polity�s unwillingness to share political power had begun to seriously consider staking their claim to an independent state comprising the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the Island-the Tamil Homeland.

At the 1977 General Elections, the Tamil United Liberation Front contested the elections on the platform of restoring statehood for the Tamil people based on their right to self-determination and won 18 of the 22 seats contested giving an overwhelming mandate.

The call for the resumption of the struggle for political independence by the Tamil National Leader Mr. V. Pirabhakaran in November 2006 following the failure of the 2002 ceasefire agreement therefore is in line with the mandate given by the Tamil people.

AFTA�s Urgent Appeal to the Australian Greens

The Australian Greens can help restore the peace process by taking the following principled approach:

� Persuade the Federal Parliament to send a fact finding mission to the Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka including the rebel held areas

� Condemn the heinous crimes committed against humanity by the Sri Lankan Government and advocate for applying diplomatic pressure to comply with the 2002 cease fire agreement in full and the international law governing armed conflict

� Support the commissioning and ongoing operation of the Independent Inquiry to be undertaken by the International Eminent Persons Group that includes the Australian nominee Emeritus Professor Ivan Shearer AM RFD

� Applying pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to allow local and International NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance without any harassment or threat to life

� Treating both parties to the conflict as equals in its dealings � noting that an Australian ban on the LTTE would be only counter productive

� Promote a negotiated political solution that transforms Sri Lanka into a union of two states enabling peaceful coexistence between the Sinhala and Tamil people. In this context we draw your attention to Sumantra Bose, Indian writer and author of �States, Nations, Sovereignty-Sri Lanka, India and the Tamil Eelam Movement� (Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1994) who has called for �imaginative associative structures whereby the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples can peacefully coexist, and freely associate and cooperate in certain vital spheres of common concern so that the welfare of both people can be safeguarded and enhanced�.

Thank you in anticipation of your favourable response.

Yours sincerely

Kathir Ravichandra,
Vice Chairperson
The Australasian Federation of Tamil associations Inc

6 August 2007


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