Congressman Brad Sherman
24th District, California
Serving the San Fernando and Conejo Valleys,
Las Virgenes and Malibu
Member of US Congress Committee on International
1 September, 2000
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Madame Secretary,
A year ago, several of my colleagues and I wrote to you about the
human rights abuses in Chemmani, Jaffna, Sri Lanka. I urged you to
request that Sri Lanka accept international experts in the exhumation of
mass graves. I am happy to note that Sri Lanka did finally accept two
international forensic observers to be present during the excavations and
analysis of the skeletal remains of the civilians who were killed and buried
by the soldiers of the Sri Lanka army. I thank you for your efforts.
I am disappointed, however, that even though
the likely perpetrators of the crime were named by those who were convicted
of the original Krishanthy rape and murder case, no case against these
perpetrators was brought to court.
I am also dismayed that the excavations were prematurely stopped before the
whole area was excavated despite the findings that violence caused the
deaths of those who had been found. Further extrajudicial killings of Tamil
civilians by the Sri Lanka government are being reported daily in the
District of Batticaloa in the East of the Island. Though the coroner and the
legal system identities the killings as murder by government forces and
issues arrest orders
the police do not conduct inquiries or bring any of the perpetrators to
Over the years
many Tamils have been arrested on suspicion, and detained for years without
ever being accused of any crime in a court of law. In an article in the
prestigious British medical journal The Lancet,
a researched study, " The Sexual Abuse of Men in Detention in Sri Lanka,"
(published on June 10, 2000) provides the details of torture and sexual
abuse of the detainees by the arm) and prison guards. The government of Sri
Lanka has not taken any action in this matter.
Instead of working to change the behavior of the armed forces that persecute
the government has resorted to undemocratic methods in controlling
press is barred from the areas of conflict by direct and indirect coercion.
The United States should do its utmost to ensure freedom of the press in Sri
For the past six years President Chandrika has pursued a policy of
conducting a war while holding out the promise of a political solution.
While she has pursued
a brutal war in which the
main casualties were Tamil civilians, she has
failed on her promise to deliver any constitutional reforms that could
ensure the democratic rights and dignity of the Tamils. Further the
dynamics of the politics among the majority Singhalese makes a fair
solution to the democratic aspirations of the Tamils remote. Given this
record I believe a more proactive role by United States is warranted.
First. I would like to urge that all training, and arms sales to Sri Lanka
be suspended to send a strong message to the Sri Lankan government and its
people that continuing the war will not solve the problem nor gain the
support of the US.
Teresita C. Schaffer, former Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Director of the
South Asia Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies
wrote in the South Asia Monitor, June 1, 2000, that,
"the only chance [for a solution] would lie in a much more
radical approach to power sharing. A loose confederal structure, with
some kind of explicit recognition of the Tamils as a collective group
within it and with stronger guarantees of their inclusion in power at
the national level, might be more successful"
On June 99. 2000, the
Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Benjamin Gilman
wrote to you about the continuing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. He
further urged that,
"The US should make it clear that we would support all
options including secession to be discussed in the negotiating process
of resolving the differences."
The democratic process in Sri Lanka has deteriorated during
the past twenty years mainly because of the continuing war and the
political activity of Singhalese extremists.
States has an opportunity make Sri Lanka a model and help it to evolve,
two autonomous democratic political structures within a system acceptable to
both parties, where ethnic communities can coexist peacefully on the
Island. The US should be firm in its message to the government and the
opposition, that if negotiations are not forthcoming immediately, they
should be prepared to conduct a referendum of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
This can be done with the assistance of the United Nations similar to the
referendum in East Timor. Thus, in the absence of a negotiated
settlement, the Tamil people could determine whether they want a
a separate state as endorsed by the Tamil people in the last democratic
elections held in 1977 in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
Again, I thank you for your past efforts and urge the Administration to work
along these lines to deliver a peaceful solution that all the peoples of Sri
Lanka can accept.
Member of Congress