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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State> Tamil Nadu > Tamil Nadu & the Tamil Eelam Freedom Struggle > Human Rights of the Tamil People in Sri Lanka Memorandum submitted by V.Gopalasamy (VAIKO)

India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Human Rights of the Tamil People in Sri Lanka

V.Gopalasamy (VAIKO)
General Secretary,
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (MDMK)
a constituent member of the ruling coalition in India

Memorandum to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
19 October 1998 

[see also Tamil National Forum: Selected Writings & Speeches - Vaiko ]


Vaiko presenting Memorandum in Geneva

Introduction | Arrest, Detention and Torture | Arbitrary Killings And Disappearances | The Question Of Impunity | Government's Failure To Protect Human Rights | Displaced People and Refugees |  Denial of Food Medicine and Medical Supplies Right to Health and Food | Marginalisation of Hill Country Tamils Destruction of Cultural Identity | Cost of War | Violation of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law | Tamil Right to Self-Determination | Government Peace Proposal and International Mediation | Appeal

0upS.gif (883 bytes) INTRODUCTION

V.GopalasamyThe record of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, deaths in custody, disappearance, arbitrary killings and disregard for the norms of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka continue to be matters of grave concern deserving serious attention and effective course of action.

The war that broke out between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has resulted in incalculable death and destruction, and displacement of over a million people. Some 500,000 Tamils, comprising a large proportion of the skilled work force, such as `'health workers and teachers", have fled the country, while another 850,000 are internally displaced. The impact of war on the mental health of the population, particularly the elderly and children is severe.

Sri Lanka has been under Emergency rule since May 1983, except for a brief period of five months from 11 January 1989 to 20 June 1989. Many of the normal safeguards in regard to democratic rights and fundamental freedoms remain suspended and the security forces have been invested with extraordinary powers under Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The legislative frame work of the Emergency regulations and the PTA and the limited mandates of the available human rights mechanisms provide neither sufficient safeguards to prevent violation of human rights nor adequate assurances that those who commit violations will be punished. International organisations, local non-governmental organisations and Members of Parliament have documented and continue to expose gross violation of human rights by the security forces under the present People's Alliance (PA) government.

The Tamil homeland has continuously come under aerial bombardment by the Sri Lankan Airforce. The Airforce has targeted civilian areas killing thousands of people. The Navaly Church where civilians had taken refuge was bombed on 9 July 1995 killing 65 people and injuring more than 150. An air raid at Suthanthirapuram on 10 June 1998, killed 32 civilians and wounded 52 others.

Following a private dispute, a large Sinhalese mob entered Tamil workers' line rooms on estates in Ratnapura on 9 September 1998 attacking people. Fifteen Tamils were seriously wounded, DO line rooms burned and 4,000 displaced. No proper steps have been taken by the government to apprehend the offenders. The government has not taken any action in a number of massacres, which can be characterised as encouraging genocide.

The government has often claimed that it is fighting terrorism and deaths occur in such course. A State has the rights to fight terrorism but not disproportionately. The majority of acts of genocide have been indiscriminate, i.e. they were not directed against the LTTE as such but aimed at undermining its strength at the expense of Tamil civilians.

Moreover, it is questionable whether the concept of terrorism is a meaningful category in an ethnic conflict that is so radicalised that belonging to one group is a sufficient factor for being considered an enemy. Moreover the labelling of the LTTE, which is claiming to assert the Tamils right to self-determination by force, as terrorists in order to legitimate the military force employed by the government against Tamil civilians is in itself highly questionable, especially in the light of previous unsuccessful attempts by the Tamil people to assert their political self-determination by peaceful means.


There are continuing reports of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill treatment of Tamil detainees, since the outbreak of war in 1990. Mass arrests of Tamils are continuing in Colombo. Tamils walking in the streets, at bus stands, work places, in buses and students at schools have been arrested and detained. There is widespread incidence of extortion of detainees and their families. Over 10,000 arrests were made in March and April 1998 in the Colombo suburbs of Maradana, Kotahena, Pettah, Modera, Fort, Wellawatte and in Mount Lavania and Dehiwala.

On the 31 March alone some 2,000 Tamils including, over 500 women, were arrested in Kotahena, Pettah and Kochchikade. Although most of them were released within 72 hours, because of the nature of the round-ups, it is not possible to determine how many are further detained. Those arrested were subjected to harassment and some have complained of assault.

In the run-up to the SAARC summit of 29 July 1998 in Colombo, thousands of Tamils were taken into custody by security forces in Colombo, Dehiwala, Mt. Lavania, Panandura, Ratmalana and Moratuwa. Most of them, however, were released, but some detained further.

The Sri Lankan press reported that many hill country Tamils were also detained in police stations at Badulla, Bandarewala, Kandy. Nuwara Eliya and Ragala. On 24 July 1998 over 15-hill country Tamil youths were arrested in Galkeith Estate in Kalutura District for not possessing identity cards. Trade unions in the plantations' say over 50% of the Hill Country Tamils have not been issued identity cards and exposed to the danger of arrest. It is estimated that 1,700 Tamils are in custody and many for long periods without trial.

There are over 450 Tamils in custody for over two years, some over four years. While theoretically there are legal provisions to refer the matter to the courts by way of habeas corpus applications, in practice, as pointed out by TULF Members of the Parliament giving evidence before the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission on 9 April 1998, fundamental right of Tamils in Colombo are being violated with impunity and arrests take place, in many instances, despite possessing all the necessary documents, solely on the basis of ethnicity. Round-ups and arrests of Tamils also continue in large numbers during military operations in the northeast.

There have been also a number of killings in prisons. In July 1983, 53 Tamils political prisoners were massacred in the maximum security Weiikade prison in Colombo. No enquiry has been conducted into the killings up to date. On 12 December 1997, three Tamil detainees, Muthulingam Dharmalingam, Shanmugarajah Sivanesan and Sharif Jehan were hacked to death in front of Ward D in Kalutara prison by a group of 5inhalese criminal prisoners. Up to now those responsible have not been identified and punished.

Ninety nine percent of the members of the security forces in Sri Lanka belonging to the majority Sinhalese community and do not speak Tamil. The Tamil population in Sri Lanka is treated by the security forces with suspicion and is subjected to all forms of abuse. The entire life of the Tamil people in the island is controlled by the military apparatus and laws restricting their freedoms. The right to life of the Tamils is degraded by the state and the military.

Torture in custody continue to remain a major problem. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (MDMK) welcomes the accession by the Sri Lankan government to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but is concerned that the government has not made adequate steps to ensure the implementation of the Convention. The U.S. State Department in its 1997 human rights report had illustrated the methods of torture practised by the security forces and alleges that detainees have reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of mistreatment. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has declared that the security forces and state officers including the Defence Secretary often breach Emergency regulation relating to arrests.

The Supreme Court, in a number of cases, has also awarded compensation in torture cases, but no one has been charged for perpetration of the crime. The Supreme Court can only award compensation and has no power to punish for violation of human rights.


Arbitrary killings and reprisal attacks on civilians are common in the Tamil areas. Government forces often respond with counter-violence' which characterise unmitigated repression and brutality. Civilians have been compelled by the Sri Lankan army to act as human shields to detect landmines. Complaints about such conduct have been made in the Sri Lankan Parliament by Tamil MPs.

Persons suspected of LTTE links have been shot dead in several cases burned alive. Many bodies found floating in the waterways and lakes near Colombo have been identified as those of Tamils. Military death squads continue to operate in the country. They go about in unmarked vehicles, abducting or summarily executing anyone suspected of LTTE connections.

The government appointed five member Bandula Kulatunga Committee which probed allegations of "disappearance,' of over 700 people in Jaffna after the army capture of the peninsula in early 1996, in 25 cases, identified those responsible for the disappearances. Amnesty International recorded over 600 disappearances in Jaffna in 1996, highest in the world during that year. Amnesty International, in its November 1997 report, also has accused the government of failing to protect people under its jurisdiction.

There have been a number of rapes by the security forces in Jaffna and Batticaloa and some women were murdered after being raped. Lance Corporal Somaratne Rajapakse, an accused in the Krishanthy Kumarasamy rape and murder case, revealed to the Colombo High Court on 5 July 1998 that he knows the location of mass graves at Chemmani, Jaffna District where 400 bodies of Tamils killed in custody were buried.

Amnesty international along with other international human rights organisations have called upon the Sri Lankan government to authorise a parallel investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department and the Human Rights Commission in Sri Lanka into the mass graves, with the assistance of international forensic experts. Human rights organisations also have raised fears for the safety of Somaratne Rajapakse following an attack on him by prison guards on 23 August 1998. The attack on Rajapakse had resulted following his refusal to sign a written statement ordered by guard, reportedly on the orders of a Minister, to the effect that he had been emotionally disturbed at the time he made the statement to the High Court about the mass graves and that it had been untrue.

Use of unauthorised places of detention is also a concern to us and other human rights organisations. Though, the government has announced introduction of measures to safeguard the welfare of detainees, in particular, the requirement that detainees in unauthorised places of detention is a specific offence under the Emergency Regulations. Amnesty International has accused the government of failing to take any decisive action to enforce these safeguards The actions of the Sri Lankan security forces and its paramilitary groups are in contravention of the Geneva Conventions relating to non-internal armed conflicts.

0upS.gif (883 bytes) THE QUESTION OF IMPUNITY

Impunity for those responsible for human rights violations remains a major concern. Human rights agencies including the U.S. State Department have classified impunity as a serious problem in Sri Lanka. Relatives of tens of thousands of people who were killed or disappeared over the last 13 years in the entire country are still waiting for justice to be done. There have been a number of massacres of Tamils by security forces and Home Guards since 1990 that have been well documented by international human rights organisations. The U.S. State Cepartment's human rights report for 1997 observes that the lack of progress in some cases and investigation or prosecution in others had given the impression of immunity for those responsible for human rights abuses. The cases in respect of some of the Tamil murders are either dragged or have been abandoned.

The Bolgoda Lake case in which 22 policemen were charged with the murder of over 30 Tennis in custody at the Colombo Special Task Force (STF) headquarters has been abandoned. The Supreme Court has ruled in a number of applications that the security forces carried out torture. The Supreme Court has also declared a number of detentions illegal. The government has taken no steps to bring those responsible for torture, extra-judicial executions and illegal detentions and breach of Emergency regulations to book. Fines imposed on security officers are paid by state.

MDMK welcomes the Colombo High Court judgement in the well-publicised human rights case of the 18 year old school girl Krishanthy Kumarasamy, which has shown greater sensitivity and assertiveness The High Court found the security force members guilty of rape, murder and "Disappearance" of Krishanthy Kumarasamy, her mother, 16 year old brother and a neighbor on 7 September 1996 and sentenced five soldiers to death.


The dismissive attitude of the Sri Lankan government in many instances towards reports of human rights organisations of acknowledged credibility, the censorship of the media, restrictions on the NGOs and journalists to visit the affected areas and the many examples of the government's hostility to those who are concerned with the human rights situation in the country reveal its callous disregard for basic human rights.

The situation of the conflict in Sri Lanka and the many violations of the democratic rights of the people of Sri Lanka are matters that have been placed before the UN Human Rights Commission in successive years. The record shows that it was the terrorism authorised, acquiesced or even sponsored by successive Sri Lankan governments from as early as 1956 and l958 and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people. The recent discovery of the mass graves in Chemmani in the North also has major implications for the human rights record of the country, given the history of large scale disappearances which remain unsolved up to the present.

Given the fact that many pieces of anti-democratic legislation such as the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act which permit the indiscriminate arrest and detention of persons for undetermined period and in undefined places of detention remain in place, the framework within which many violations of the rights of detainees will continue to exist.


Sri Lankan military operation Jayasikurui involving 40,000 troops, launched on 13 May 1997 to open a land-route from Vavuniya to Jaffna has created over 90,000 newly displaced people, adding to the 300,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) already in the Vanni making a total 390,000 in late April 1998.

The report of a three -member committee appointed in October 1996 to determine the number of IDPs in the region remains unpublished. The war also has caused the flight of over half a million Tamil refugees to Europe and North America and 170,000 in Tamil Nadu in India, 70,000 of who are living in Indian government run refugee camps and others outside with friends or rented accommodation. As the military operations intensify   the number of Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka continues to rise, despite threats by Western governments to return the failed Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. The number of Tamils fleeing to India has also seen a sharp increase during the last six months despite arrests and killings while crossing the Palk Strait.

The present Jaffna population is said to be around 470,000. The number continues to increase with the return of displaced people from the Vanni as the military operations are intensified in Vanni and due to the impact of the blockade of essential needs such as food, fuel and medicine to the region.

Mannar Government Agent SM Croos in his May 1998 report indicated that around 4,000 people arrive from the Vanni each month and over 3,000 are housed in refugee camps on Mannar Island, waiting to go to Jaffna or southern Sri Lanka. In July 1998 the number of people entering Mannar Island was reported to be around 75 per day. Over 12,000 people from he Vanni held in government camps in Vavuniya District continue to suffer unsanitary and crowded conditions. Some remain in the camps for over two years. Most have been denied permission by the security forces to travel to Colombo or other southern areas saying that the steps are necessary to protect the south from LTTE infiltration.

Some 5,500 people are still living in 56 refugee camps in the Jaffna District unable to return to their homes. NGO representatives say that no assistance has been provided to repair the 81,000 houses damaged in the fighting. While many people have been displaced by the destruction of their homes and loss livelihood. NGOs say that fear has been the driving force behind the internal flight.

Since June 1990 an estimated 100,000 people, mostly from northern Jaffna and less from the east, have abandoned their homes and taken refuge in Colombo and adjoining areas. Besides the continuing air raids, shelling and military encounters that take place almost daily between the government forces and the Lull E, the main causes of the exodus of people from their homelands have been the harsh living conditions with scarcity of food and other essential supplies and the disruption of normal civilian life

A study conducted by Colombo-based Marga Institute says that the internally displaced people have risen from 524,000 in 1994 to over 1 million in 1996, of whom the majority is Tamils. In August 1997, the number of refugees was 785,000 of which 75,000 were under the age of five. During the visit of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu to Vanni on 7 May, NGOs indicated that around 530,000 children in the north-east have been affected by the war, including 180,000 in the LTTE held territory and 490,000 in contested areas.

An estimated 220,000 children are displaced in the northeast and another 16,000 live in refugee camps in Puttalarn District. According to NGOs, a number of factors, including food shortage and health problems, have increased child mortality and morbidity, particularly in the Vanni District. Around 10,000 children in Vanni have no educational facilities.


There are several serious allegations and significant recognition of failures of the government of Sri Lanka and its officials, officers, and agents to provide adequate and available food and medicine to the Tamil population in the north and to deny good drinking water. It is particularly egregious and a serious human rights violation for the government to deny food, medicine and medical care to the displaced, the infirm, the disabled, the children and the disadvantaged and to use food or medicine and medical supplies as a political tactic or weapon of war victims of war.

There is extreme suffering of the people in the Vanni region. Scarcity of food has led to malnourishment and prices remain high. Makeshift shelters provided for refugees have been destroyed by monsoon floods and a large number suffer from malaria and diarrhoea. The government continues to impose an economic embargo on Tamil area.

Cultivation in 66,000 acres of land in Kilinochchi District has been disrupted and restriction on fuel, fertiliser and farming implements has further affected agriculture. The government agents and local NGOs in the Vanni region have raised concern repeatedly about the impact of food and medical restrictions by the military. Their concerns have been continually disregarded by the government. Water supply for people in the Vanni continues to remain a major problem. Government Agent K. Ganesh says that 30% of the medicines for the first quarter of 1998 have not been sent to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts.

The government has imposed restrictions on the NGOs providing humanitarian relief. The ICRC’s capacity to perform its humanitarian functions has been severely curtailed by the widespread and intensive nature of the military conflict between the LTTE and government forces.

The government announced in June 1998 that it was unable to continue food aid to displaced people and that it would cut food aid to displaced people in the north from 1 July 1998. Food aid was slashed by 40% in Jaffna, 20% in Kilinochchi and Muilaitivu districts and 15% in Mannar and Vavuniya Districts. This would result in only 55,000 families out of 81,200 families receiving food relief from 1 July. In the Vanni District, only 32,200 of the 77,500 families would receive aid.

The Mannar Government Agent was ordered to reduce the number of families receiving assistance from 16,200 to 14,200 from 1 July. The Government Agents in the North were prohibited by the government from providing food aid to 60,000 people in the Vanni displaced from Jaffna following Sunray 11 military operation in April 1996. In May 1997, the number of people receiving food aid was arbitrarily reduced from 420,000 to 185,000. The current reduction will bring further misery to the displaced people who are undergoing immense suffering.

According to reports from the Vanni in August, several hundred Tamil refugees surrounded the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demanding that normal food supplies be restored. The displaced Tamils have informed the UN representatives that they would not allow their offices to remain open if the food situation was not rectified. Bo Schack, acting head of the UNHCR in Sri Lanka, however, has announced that UNHCR was not responsible for the food supply to the north and that he had discussed the issue with Sri Lankan government prior to the demonstrations but the government would not change its policy.

0upS.gif (883 bytes) THE RIGHT TO HEALTH AND FOOD

Young-weeping mothers with sick children in their arms is a common sight in the Vanni region. London-based International NGO Christian Aid, after visiting Vanni recently, said "healthcare situation in the Vanni has reached critical proportions with alarming health and malnutrition problems among refugees".

A number of international NGOs have expressed their concerns over the plight of the displaced population in Sri Lanka The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its 25 session held in May 1998 declared that it was concerned about the situation of the estimated 800,000 displaced persons, many of whom have been living in temporary shelters for the past 15 years, because of the armed conflict, and who lack basic sanitation, education, food, clothing and health care. The Committee was alarmed that the incidence of under-nourishment among women and children living in the shelters was as high as 70%.

In Mullaitivu District, 339,000 of the 727,000 people attending hospital in 1997 were treated for malaria, doctors often guessing from symptoms as faci1ities for blood tests are minimal. Some people have contracted malaria several times leading to lack of immunity, brain hemorrhage and an outbreak of tuberculosis. Incidence of septicemia, typhoid and diarrhoea have also increased and there is an acute shortage of vital drugs particularly anti-biotic and painkillers. Government Officers themselves say that the Health Ministry has failed to supply certain types of essential medicines to the district even after approval by the Defense Ministry. Shortages of medicines and medical equipment continue to plague the Vanni. Medicines received in the Vanni are often old or declared ineffective and no more in general use.

In Puthukudyiruppu alone 33 people died of malaria and diarrhoea in December and January of 1998. A recent survey of 16,700 children under five years of age reveals that 71% are malnourished and 33% suffer severe malnutrition. Children also have developed night blindness through lack of Vitamin A and need constant supervision. Only one third of the food and fuel requirements of the population in the Vanni are currently being provided. Several deaths have been caused by Cholera in Tamil areas. In July 1998 two cases of death due to Cholera were reported in Mannar District. Many refugees in Madhu camp have also reported to have contracted Cholera. Over 50 people, including some from Erukkalampiddi refugee camp, were admitted to Mannar hospital.

The Sri Lankan government has not complied with a UN request for an interim report on the children of the northeast where 75,000 displaced children are under the age of five. The 106 page report of the Sri Lankan government to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in November 1997 is silent on the malnourishment and malnutrition in Tamil areas. furthermore, the government survey on nutrition in 1337 has excluded the northeast and supplementary child feeding programmes have not reached northeast in the last two years.

The restriction of fishing continues and most fishing families are subjected to severe hardship without any income. Due to lack of investment facilities to market the produce 75% of agricultural activities have come to a standstill. There is no programme to assist the 19,100 widows in the Jaffna peninsula and most of them are distressed by difficulties they face in providing for their families.

According to surveys conducted by NGOs, in the last six years, over 1,800 civilians have lost their limbs by landmines in Jaffna, 1,440 of whom are below 30 years of age. Experts believe about 100,000 mines lie buried in Jaffna peninsula alone.

The military operations are conducted in such a manner targeting civilians in an effort to establish authority and control through fear. It also aims to disrupt the fabric of grass roots social control, economic and cultural relations. The impact on the mental health of the population, particularly the elderly and children is severe. The natural extended nuclear family support and care is no longer available.

The trauma of war has caused considerable problems in children. There are reports that even infants are affected by war trauma, particularly if separated from parents or if parents themselves are psychologically disturbed. Increasing number of children are born and continue to grow-up in war knowing no other world. Their personality development is permanently distorted and deformed due to their experience of violence. Social workers in the northeast report that they are unable to cope with the massive extent of psychological disorders.


Hill country Tamils continue to suffer the effects of denial of citizenship and franchise rights in 1948 and 1949. There is no substantial change in their living and working conditions. Sri Lanka's independence has not conferred a share in the growing national wealth on the Tamil workers' nor has formal sovereignty brought them full political participation. Successive Sri Lankan governments have been hand-in-glove with plantation interests in exploiting plantation labor in various ways.

Legislation has suppressed wages and crucial social facilities and has forced repatriation on workers under agreements without their participation. Sri Lanka has again become words largest tea exporter due to shortage in supplies from Kenya, Bangla Desh and Indonesia and demand from former Soviet Union nations. But workers continue to be paid low wages and suffer discrimination in health, education, employment and all other aspects of national life. Over 200,000 jobs have been lost in the plantation industry after private companies took over estates in 1993.


International humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of cultural monuments and places of worship. The NorthEast Hindu Priests Association has recently accused the Sri Lankan government for marginalising Hindus from national life. The Association also says that over 1,800 Hindu temples have been destroyed or damaged and the security forces often desecrate Hindu temples without concern for the religious sentiments of the Tamps. It further accuses that the temples are also being used as army living quarters and military checkpoints. Hindu icons have been plundered by the army and Hindu priests are intimidated and harassed at army checkpoints. Recently a number of Hindu priests were taken into custody.

The security forces have also destroyed a number of cultural centres. Tamil programmes on state television and radio have been drastically cut down and often Tamil programmes are cancelled without notice.

0upS.gif (883 bytes) COST OF WAR

The war has wider socio-political consequences. The heightening of security, intense military operations and the state of emergency have severely restricted the Tamil people in the enjoyment of their rights, and continue to violate the privacy of their own homes, normal life and development.

The estimated number of Tamil deaths due to the war is 65,000 which includes a significant number of women, children and the elderly. A very large percentage of this number of Tamils have died in indiscriminate shelling aerial bombing' massacres and retaliatory attacks by the military.

According to get government Northern Province Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (NPRRA), the registered death of civilians as a result of war in the Northern Province between 1990 and 1997 is 8,554 and 2,620 have been disabled. The local NGOs, however' say that the number of deaths in the region is over 10,000 and over 4,000 have been disabled. According to the Marga Institute the annual cost of welfare for the refugees is around Rs 3 billion. Repair of damage to different sectors such as agriculture and housing would cost around Rs 60 billion


In the conduct of the conflict, MDMK acknowledges that the warring parties have violated the most fundamental norms set by international human rights and humanitarian law.

Despite Sri Lanka's claim to being a democracy, the government has often interfered with the media, particularly where the war is concerned, government control has been prevalent. Journalists have consistently been forbidden from entering conflict zones. On 5 June 1998 the Sri Lankan government imposed full strict censorship of all reports relating to the war being fought in the Tamil homeland.

Local and international coverage of the war is prohibited, as is any reporting by the media of the actions of police and military officials. All reports, photographs, and videotapes must pass a military Censor, Army General Jaliya Nammuni. It is extremely distressing that while media has been allowed to report fully on conflicts such as Bosnia and Chechnya dehumanisation and massacres are being carried out behind closed doors in Sri Lanka, which situation is described by NGOs as "genocidal". The censorship indicated the lack of respect for the basic freedoms of speech and information and weakens the government and security forces' accountability in Sri Lanka.

"International human rights law makes clear that certain fundamental rights - in particular the right to life and the right not to be tortured - must be upheld by governments at all times and in all circumstances. Killings by members of the armed opposition can never provide justification for government forces to deliberately kill defenceless people. Nor can they satisfy the enforced "disappearances,' or torture of prisoners in the custody of government forces".

Under Article 4 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  to which the government of Sri Lanka acceded in 1980, there can be no derogations from the duty to uphold the right to life and the right to freedom from torture in any circumstances, even "in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation".

The manner in which the warring parties conducted themselves have led to allegations that they are in gross violation of their obligations. The international community continues to raise concern over human rights violations committed by the LTTE. The LTTE is accused of killing unarmed civilians, torture and disappearances. The LTTE has made public that they do not have a policy attacking civilians.

In the last 15 years a number of NGOs have urged the UN to take urgent measures to end communal massacres and the genocidal situation existing in Sri Lanka. The statements of NGOs underscore the abysmal depth of the turmoil in Sri Lanka calling for immediate international intervention. The genocidal war will undoubtedly continue unless and until there is humanitarian intervention for the justifiable purpose of protecting the Tamil community and preventing the commission of genocide.


The systematic violation of human rights by the Sri Lankan government over a period of five decades is well documented and are clearly, no accidental happenings. They constitute evidence of the resolute and determined efforts of governments dominated by the Sinhala majority to subjugate and assimilate the Tamil people within the framework of a unitary Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lankan state. The Tamil people have suffered enormously for several decades and can no longer be denied their right to self-determination

The two UN International Covenants declare that "All people have the rights to self determination." In the words of legal scholar Professor Chen, the right to self-determination is 'deeply rooted in the concept of human dignity" He maintains that self-determination has as its heart the people's wish to be '`active agents of their own history". Self-determination is the other side of the coin of democracy.

Territorial integrity should never be used to justify fraudulent territorial claims or to suppress the legitimate demands of an indigenous population. In Sri Lanka, Sinhala domination  found expression in the disenfranchisement of plantation Tamils, the enactment of the Sinhala Only law, discriminatory employment policies, inequitable allocation of resources to Tamil areas, exclusion of eligible Tamil students from Universities and higher education and in genocidal pogroms in 1958, 1977 and again in 1983.

At the same time systematic state aided Sinhala colonisation has continued in an attempt to render the Tamil people a subject minority in parts of their homeland. Intense governrnent planned Sinhala Colonisation has resulted in the exclusion of Tamils in some areas of the northeast and a reduction in Tamil representation to elected bodies, including Parliament.

Several attempts by Tamil representations to attain political self-determination failed, most notably  Bandaranaike - Chelvanayagam Pact in 1957, the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact in 1965 and the formation of District Development Councils in 1987, due to abrogation or failure by government to provide the administrative means. In 1976, the Tamils declared their intention to assert their inalienable right of self-determination by virtue of their historic consciousness and distinct nationality occupying a defined territory.

At the negotiations held at Thimpu in 1985, the Tamil delegation, comprising moderate and militant parties put forward four cardinal principles - Recognition of Tamil as a nation, the identifiable homeland, the right to self-determination and citizenship and fundamental rights of all Tamils who look upon Sri Lanka as their country. These principles were rejected outright by the government negotiators resulting in the continuation of the conflict which has intensified over the years causing more destruction of human life and misery to the different communities in Sri Lanka.


The Tamil people in Sri Lanka in their long attempt at self-rule since independence have encountered only broken promises, shelving of pacts and abrogation of written agreements The UNP in its 17 year rule since 1977, sought only to buy time through an All Party Conference, a Political Parties Conference and a Parliamentary Select Committee, to strengthen Sri Lankan military capability.

The ruling People's Alliance came to power on a peace platform promising to solve the national conflict. They began peace talks with the LTTE which came to an end in April 1995, each one blaming the other for the breakdown of talks.

The government released its devolution proposals on 3 August 1995 after the talks with the LTTE broke down. A revised watered-down version was placed before the new Parliamentary Select Committee in January 1996 in the form of a draft Amendment Bill referred to as the "legal text''. An analysis of the two devolution proposals show that there is no genuine intention on the part of the government to devolve power to the regions and the government has in fact been insincere from the beginning through to the talks with the LTTE.

The proposal also has not been offered to the LTTE which is the main party in conflict. The other Tamil parties are extremely concerned and have not accepted the proposals fully. Senior Buddhist and many Sinhalese politicians have declared their oppositions to the proposals. The peace package has failed to take account of the grievances of the Tamil people and has the aim of disintegrating the traditional Tamil homeland and to reinforce the idea that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala-Buddhist state.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected a number of offers to mediate. The government continues with its military operations against the Tamil people and it has proscribed the LTTE on 27 January 1998, thus blocking the doors to peace. The government representatives continue to insist that there is no ethnic problem.

The LTTE has agreed for talks with the government, without any preconditions and with third party mediation. Several Western governments have indicated their willingness to become either mediators or facilitators. A six-member German Parliamentary delegation visiting Sri Lanka in February 1998 said that attempts must be made to bring back the LTTE to the negotiation table. Norway and Britain have made similar gestures.

0upS.gif (883 bytes) APPEAL

Taking into account the gross violations of human rights and continuing armed conflict causing in massive loss of human lives and generating many thousands of refugees and displaced persons, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam calls upon the UN High Commission on Human Rights to:

1. ensure,

a) that there is full disclosure to the people of Sri Lanka through uncensored reports in the media, of the discovery of mass graves in Chemmani in Jaffna, and;

b) that an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of those whose bodies were found in the mass graves is carried out, in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Disappearances;

c) that those responsible are identified and charged and held accountable for their actions in a court of law; and

d) that human rights monitors and journalists are kept fully informed so that the inquiry and its findings may be open to public scrutiny.

2. urge the government of Sri Lanka to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedom, in particular,

a) to take positive and meaningful steps to halt arbitrary and summary executions;

b) to take positive and meaningful steps to put an end to the practice of enforced and involuntary disappearances and torture;

3. urge the Sri Lankan government to repeal all laws, including Emergency regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which encourage illegal detention, torture, disappearance and extra-judicial killings;

4. urge the government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to disband any existing "death squads" and private armed groups and to prevent the formation of such groups in the future;

5. call on Sri Lankan government to lift the economic blockade on the Tamil homeland and refrain from deliberately using food and medicine for political action or as weapon of war,

6. call on the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to enter into a cease fire and to commence negotiations with a view to establishing a lasting peace in the island.

vaiko.jpg (3487 bytes)VAIKO
Member of Parliament
General Secretary
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam



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