Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide
President Jayawardene accedes to the the
'clamour' and the 'natural request' of the Sinhala people and enacts
Sixth Amendment to Sri Lanka Constitution which violates freedom
of expression and unseats Tamil MPs...
In early August, the Sri Lanka government acceded to that which
its President had earlier described as the 'clamour' and the
'natural request' of the Sinhala people, and announced that it would
take steps to amend the Constitution so that "those seeking
partition will lose their civic rights, and cannot hold office,
cannot practise professions, join movements or organisations". The
Sixth Amendment to
the Constitution was rushed through Parliament and gave effect
to the 'response' of the government of Sri Lanka to the July attack
on the Tamils.
Then Sri Lanka Prime Minister, R.Premadasa speaking on the debate
on the 6th Amendment in the Sri Lanka Parliament on 4 August 1983
''The purpose (of the Amendment) is to provide the severest
punishment to those who advocate or attempt to establish a
separate State... Accordingly we have formulated the offence in
the widest possible terms.''
It was, however, an Amendment which
violated Article 25
of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights - a
Convention which Sri Lanka had ratified.
"...The key to its (the 6th Amendment's) effect is paragraph
(1) which runs as follows:- 'No person shall directly or
indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote,
finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate
State within the territory of Sri Lanka'. Anyone who contravenes
that provision becomes liable to the imposition of civic
disability for upto 7 years, the forfeiture of his movable and
immovable property... the loss of his passport... the right to
engage in any trade or profession. In addition if he is a Member
of Parliament, he loses his seat.
The freedom to express political opinions, to seek to
persuade others of their merits, to seek to have them
represented in Parliament, and thereafter seek Parliament to
give effect to them, are all fundamental to democracy itself.
These are precisely the freedoms which Article 25 (of the
International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights) recognises
and guarantees - and in respect of advocacy for the
establishment of an independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka, those
which the 6th Amendment is designed to outlaw.
It therefore appears to me plain that this enactment
constitutes a clear violation by Sri Lanka of its obligations in
international law under the Covenant ...before the 6th Amendment
was passed, the Tamil United Liberation Front was the largest
opposition party in Parliament, and its effect has therefore
been to increase the (ruling) United National Party's majority
from the previous 83% to 93%.. Accordingly, the President can
now hardly be surprised if his opponents, both within the
country and outside, regard the 6th Amendment as nothing more
than a piece of political chicanery, designed
to move Sri Lanka even further towards a one party State..."
(Paul Sieghart: Sri
Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to
Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International
Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March