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Home > Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > Commonwealth > Appeal to Commonwealth Heads of Government by International Secretariat of LTTE

Commonwealth & the Tamil Struggle

Appeal to Commonwealth Heads of Government
by International Secretariat of LTTE

7 November 1995

On 9 November, in an Appeal for Justice and Humanity, Mr.Lawrence Thilakar, Member of the Central Committee of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, called on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in New Zealand to support the appeal made by the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, on 4 November for urgent humanitarian aid for up to 400,000 Tamil refugees fleeing their homes as Sri Lanka government troops invaded the Jaffna peninsula. Mr. Boutros-Ghali had said that 'humanitarian aid on a significant scale was needed' to minimise the suffering of the Tamil people.

Text of Appeal

Your Excellencies,

An Appeal for Justice and Humanity

We seek the urgent support of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting for the appeal made by the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, on 4 November for urgent humanitarian aid for up to 400,000 Tamil refugees fleeing their homes as Sri Lanka government troops invade the Jaffna peninsula. Dr Boutros-Ghali has said that humanitarian aid on a significant scale was needed to minimise the suffering of the Tamil people.

Though Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga has sought to justify the invasion of the Tamil homeland as a war to 'liberate' the Tamil people from the Liberation Tigers, the fact is that the Tamil people have fled in their thousands from their would be 'liberators', leaving behind them their homes and hard earned belongings.

Again though President Chandrika Kumaratunga has claimed that the Sri Lanka security services have endeavoured to minimise civilian casualties, the fact is that the invading Sinhala army has indiscriminately bombed and shelled the Tamil homeland; that hundreds of Tamil civilians had been killed and thousands maimed; that houses had been flattened and farmland destroyed; and that the economic blockade imposed by Sri Lanka had prevented food and urgently needed medical supplies reaching the peninsula.

On 1 November, the Government's own representative in the peninsula urged the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry to stop bombing civilians and refugees in Jaffna and has told President Kumaratunga that civilians in refugee camps were being killed by aerial raids and appealed for safe areas to be set up. Thousands of people have fled Jaffna with the spread of disease causing concern among relief agencies. Relief workers have said that the few hospitals in the peninsula are dangerously low on anaesthetics for surgery and several drugs essential to stopping the spread of diseases and treating war casualties. Without clean water and proper latrines, an epidemic could hit in a matter of days and the world probably wouldn't see it happen.

Gerard Peytrignet, who heads the International Committee of the Red Cross in the island has said that about half of the 400,000 Tamil refugees are living and sleeping outdoors in heavy monsoon rains. He added: "The rest are holed up in churches, schools and relatives' homes. The refugees have very little food or proper sanitation. Doctors are already seeing cases of dysentery and eye infections, and while cholera hasn't struck yet, the conditions are perfect for a deadly epidemic.. Of course, in this type of situation, anything could happen, quick action is needed."

The attack by the Sri Lanka armed forces has taken place under cover of a press censorship imposed by Sri Lanka on September 21. The press censorship has prevented full details of Sri Lanka's genocidal attacks on the Tamil people from reaching the outside world. At the sametime, Sri Lanka has used the cover of the press censorship, to manage news of the war to the outside world and plant malicious propaganda concerning alleged attacks by the LTTE on armed Sinhala settlements in the Tamil homeland in the East.

The Toronto Star reported on 5 November:

"Relief workers are so afraid of making the government angry, they refuse to photograph or shoot video of the refugees' suffering and smuggle pictures out to the reporters� Few were willing to criticise the government publicly because they are afraid it will shut down their relief operation in retaliation� 'I think they don't want an International presence there to witness what's happening,' a senior Western relief official said."

The conclusion is inescapable that the Sri Lanka armed forces are acting in accordance with the dictates of their commander in chief President Kumaratunga who said in an interview with an Indian journal on 30 April 1995:

"Q. Where do you go from here?

A. ...To defeat the LTTE you have to launch an all out attack (which would mean a lot of Tamil civilian casualties) and the place (Jaffna) will be wiped out.

Q. Is that possible? Can the Sri Lankan forces do it?

A. Ofcourse it is possible. That is what the IPKF tried to do."

President Kumaratunga's words are at one with the words of her predecessor, President Jayawardene to a British newspaper, a couple of weeks before the 1983 genocide of the Tamil people in Colombo and elsewhere:

"I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people... now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion... the more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here... Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy."

In this context, the claim of the Sri Lanka government on 4 November that the exodus of Tamil civilians was somehow 'contrived' to deprive the government of 'the stated rationale for its military action, namely to liberate the people of the peninsula from LTTE control' would be farcical if not for its callous disregard of the unfolding human tragedy in the Tamil homeland, caused by the wanton actions of the Sri Lanka armed forces.

The truth now stands exposed by Paul Watson from the Asian Bureau in a report in the Toronto Star on 5 November that "while Sri Lanka's army fights to crush Tamil rebels, its battling on another front against foreign relief workers trying to care for 400,000 war refugees." He reported:

"The refugees, including hundreds of wounded civilians, are caught behind the civil war's front line. Western relief agencies accuse the military of blocking desperately needed aid. Tight restrictions are preventing the delivery of drugs, tents and blankets as well as equipment to build latrines, said frustrated aid officials, who spoke on condition they not be named�More food won't end the refugees' suffering or stave off disease because most have no shelter from the rain, proper toilets or safe water, relief workers said. While the government is announcing the new food of deliveries by sea, its army was blocking a small convoy of relief trucks that was supposed to cross into rebel territory yesterday."

President Kumaratunga has sought to justify the invasion of the Tamil homeland by claiming at the United Nations General Assembly in October that "an armed group which claims to represent the Tamil minority has been engaged in violent acts against successive popularly elected governments preventing them from ensuring peace and justice for all in our land."

But, the undeniable fact is that it was the oppressive rule and state sponsored terrorism of successive, so called 'popularly elected' Sinhala governments that led to the rise of lawful Tamil armed resistance - and that too after decades of non violent protest by Tamil Parliamentarians had failed to secure justice. To claim that the 'violent acts' of that lawful armed resistance against state sponsored terrorism, somehow 'prevented' 'successive popularly elected governments' from 'ensuring peace and justice for all' is to prevaricate and deny the underlying causes of the conflict.

Sinhala chauvinism and President Kumaratunga are at one in refusing to acknowledge that the armed resistance of the Tamil people arose in response to decades of Sinhala oppression; that it is lawful; and that the leaders of that armed resistance, the Liberation Tigers are the true representatives of the Tamil people. Sinhala chauvinism and President Kumaratunga are at one in refusing to negotiate in good faith with the Liberation Tigers to secure a political resolution of the conflict which has taken such a heavy toll in human suffering.

President Kumaratunga exposed her lack of good faith in an interview reported in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times on 20 August 1995: "I have studied and acquired considerable knowledge on guerrilla warfare when I was a student in Paris, and we knew how they would behave. We conducted talks on the basis that the LTTE would not agree to any peaceful settlement and lay down arms."

Again the people who President Kumaratunga chooses to describe as 'the Tamil minority' are in fact the 'majority' in their own homeland in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka - and have been so for several centuries. Sinhala chauvinism and President Kumaratunga are again at one in refusing to admit to the existence of the Tamil people as a 'people'. President Kumaratunga obfuscates because she knows that a social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which has acquired a subjective consciousness of togetherness, by its life within a relatively well defined territory, and its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a 'people' with the right to choose their own political status - and Sinhala chauvinism refuses to deal with the Tamil people, as a people with that right.

Here may we also refer you to the matters set out in the comprehensive Petition submitted by the International Federation of Tamils to the President of the European Parliament on 21 October 1995 (a copy of which we enclose herewith) and we respectfully commend the matters stated therein for your particular attention.

President Kumaratunga also declared at the UN:

"Concerted international action is essential to combat terrorism and to compel the terrorists to renounce violence and enter the democratic process. Unfortunately, effective action to that end has been frustrated through sterile philosophical debate about the nature of terrorism."

That Sinhala chauvinism should assert that discussion about the nature of terrorism, is 'sterile' and 'philosophical' is not altogether surprising. Sinhala political parties (who had 'entered' the so called 'democratic process') have during the past four decades sponsored and actively encouraged terrorism against the Tamil people.

State terrorism started in 1956, when Tamil leaders were assaulted in the precincts of the Sri Lanka parliament and the Sri Lanka police were ordered to look the other way whilst President Chandrika Kumaratunga's father, the late S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike piloted the Sinhala Only Act inside Parliament. State terrorism reared its ugly head again in 1961, when President Chandrika Kumaratunga's mother, Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike ordered the Sinhala Army into Jaffna for the first (but not the last) time to break up a non violent protest by Tamils in front of the Jaffna Kacheri. State terrorism was consolidated and refined as a way of political life by the J.R. Jayawardene government, and later by President Premadasa and President D.B.Wijetunga.

It is true that concerted international action is essential to combat terrorism. On 9 August 1995, 21 non governmental organisations in a joint statement to the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities expressed their grave concern at the 'impunity with which the Sri Lanka armed forces continue to commit gross and inhumane violations of human rights and humanitarian law' and went on to condemn such actions as being 'intended to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil people'. The Statement added:

"In May this year, President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared that it may be necessary to launch an all out attack in the Jaffna peninsula and that this 'would mean a lot of civilian casualties' and the 'place would be wiped out'. In May, June and July the Sri Lanka armed forces launched a genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people in the Tamil homeland in the North-East.

In early July alone, 245 Tamil civilians including around one hundred women and children were killed in the North. More than 470 were injured. Indiscriminate and incessant night shelling of Tamil villages in the north led tens of thousands of Tamil civilians to evacuate their homes. The Sri Lanka airforce indiscriminately bombed villages and targetted temples, places of worship and schools. Sellachennathy Hindu Temple was bombed. St.Peters Church and St.Peters School in Navaly where hundreds had sought shelter from the incessant shelling was bombed on 10 July 1995. More than 120 including 13 babies died in their mother's arms. The Pope has expressed his deep sorrow at the bombing of the Church and the loss of civilian lives.

The Sri Lanka government, initially denied the bombing of the St.Peters Church. Then it criticised the ICRC representative for reporting the incident to the world media without consulting the Government. Later the government promised to hold an inquiry into the incident. Finally the Sri Lanka Foreign Minister declared that the government will 'boldly apologise' for the attack even before the findings of the inquiry.

The aerial bombardment of civilian population centres and places of worship follow a pattern set by the Sri Lanka armed forces over the past several years and President Kumaratunga's belated promise to investigate the recent violations, must ring hollow in the ears of the Tamil people whose kith and kin have lost their lives or their limbs in the bomb outrage."

The International Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam appeals to you to respond positively and with humanity to the call made by the Secretary General of the United Nations for urgent humanitarian aid for the tens of thousands displaced Tamils and also call upon the Sri Lanka government

1. to withdraw from the occupied territories of the Tamil homeland and end the genocidal attack on the Tamil people; and

2. to recognise the right of the Tamil people to choose their political status in order to pave the way for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Thank you,

Yours faithfully,

sgd Lawrence Thilakar

LTTE Central Committee Member


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