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Home > Tamil Diaspora - a Trans State Nation - தமிழ் அகம் - ஓர் உணர்வா, அல்லது இடமா? > United Kingdom > Letter to UK Prime Minister from the Tamil Diaspora, 10 June 1997 > International Frame of the Struggle for Tamil Eelam >
Dear Rt Hon Tony Blair,
UK's role in bringing peace to Sri Lanka
1. We are people who are concerned about the escalating war in Sri Lanka which has caused immeasurable suffering to the people of that island. We are writing to you because we believe there are specific measures that the UK can take to help end the war and bring immediate relief to the suffering people. We are heartened by your government's announcements on foreign and domestic policies, and hope that they will be successfully implemented. We will briefly describe our views on the war and the conflict in general, and then make some specific requests.
2. The war in Sri Lanka is being waged by the Sri Lankan government against Tamil people in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The declared aim of the government is to destroy the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for a separate Tamil nation in the north and east of the island. But the great majority of casualties in this war have been Tamil civilians. Here are some of the disturbing features of the war:
(a) Economic embargo: For more than a decade, Tamil people living in the north and east of Sri Lanka in areas not under occupation by the Sri Lankan military have been deprived by the government of many basic needs including food, medicine, healthcare, electricity and fuel.
(b) Bombing and shelling: Schools, hospitals, and places of worship have been subject to indiscriminate (if not deliberate) aerial attacks by the Sri Lankan air-force and ground artillery, causing the death of tens of thousands of non-combatants and the destruction of houses and public buildings. As a consequence of the war, approximately 50,000 Tamil civilians are believed to have been killed, another half million have lost their homes and live as refugees in Sri Lanka, and hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils have left the country entirely. These figures are staggering for a population of about 3 million (prior to the war).
(c) Communication blockade: For several years, communication between those who live in the areas not controlled by the SL security forces and the outside world has been severely curtailed and media has been denied access to Tamil areas.
(d) Human-rights violations: The Tamils living in the war zone and other areas controlled by the government forces are reportedly living in constant fear; there has been a steady flow of reports of disappearance of people, torture of captured suspects, rape and extra judicial killings. There have also been some reports that Tamils have been evicted forcibly from their villages. In the recently held 53rd sessions of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Amnesty International, the U.S. delegation, and 53 other Non-Governmental Organisations severely criticised the Sri Lankan government for its alarming increase in Human Rights violations in the recently occupied Tamil territories. This included, according to the U.S. representative, 750 disappearances within a year.
3. Anti-Tamil activities leading up to the war against Tamils in Sri Lanka included the following: the practice of discrimination in education and employment, denial of right of self determination, the discriminatory Sinhala-only law (1956), application of violent and terror tactics by the security forces to suppress democratic, non-violent resistance to state's oppression, beating up of a member of parliament during a non-violent protest, violent police action at the fourth World Tamil Research Conference resulting in the death of nine people, the burning of Jaffna public library which held over 90,000 books and irreplaceable manuscripts, and anti-Tamil riots during which many members of the police and security forces turned a blind eye when people were being butchered. (Reference: "Sri Lanka: A Bitter Harvest" By Elizabeth Nissan - An International MRG report. 96/1 ").
4. We describe the above to indicate the plight of Tamils and to stress the need to take immediate steps to heal the wounds. Even if a settlement is to be reached, it will take a long time for the wounds to heal. In this situation, the latest military actions of the Sri Lankan government, forcing more civilians to flee, and causing more death, destruction and mistrust, can only alienate the Tamils further. Such actions in the past have repeatedly had the effect of swelling the ranks of the LTTE.
5. There were some reports, only a few weeks ago, that following a British initiated deal between the government and opposition in Sri Lanka there was a chance for peace. However, since then the Sri Lankan foreign minister was quoted as saying that there could be no peace talks unless the LTTE lay down their arms, and the current developments indicate that the Sri Lankan government prefers to find a military solution. We believe that unless the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE unconditionally start negotiations at the earliest possible opportunity, there will be more death and destruction, and the innocent people as well as combatants on both sides will suffer. We believe the path to peace is through dialogue and not war. We request you to urge both parties to halt the fighting, and start negotiations as soon as possible. If either side insists on security guarantees, we request you to bring the matter to the U.N. - to see if a peace keeping force can be deployed in the war zone.
6. If a cease-fire cannot be arranged, we urge you to do whatever is possible :
(i) to prevent any heavy weapons from reaching the shores of Sri
Lanka (if they want to fight, let them do so without artillery, war planes and
(ii) to bring immediate relief to the civilians in the war zone;
(iii) to investigate the alleged human rights abuse in Sri Lanka and to prevent further violations;
(iv) to bring the issue to the U.N. to find a just and peaceful long term resolution to the conflict. (We hope that the Sri Lankan government and other policy makers can be persuaded to accept that keeping people united is more important than maintaining a unitary administration by force.)
7. This letter is the result of a discussion on the forum <[email protected] >, and through the Internet the following people who come from various parts of the world have authorised the first of the undersigned to include their endorsement -rather than flooding your office with similar appeals. Their names and addresses are given below. Any response from you will be forwarded to the signatories by e-mail. The first of the undersigned has verified the validity of the e-mail addresses of the signatories. We will be writing to other world leaders also. We hope this letter will reach you soon, and would be grateful to hear from you.
Name, Signature 1, e-mail address, postal address.
To endorse the letter, please write Late Endorsement - Letter to UKPM in the subject heading, and in the message, write your name, country of residence, postal address and then send it to: My e-mail address Thank you. S. Ilanko.