Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 2005


Oral Intervention by Verena Graf, Secretary General of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, NGO with Special Consultative Status at the United Nations, under agenda (item 5) on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation, 18 March 2005

"The hopes for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Sri Lanka in the wake of the ceasefire agreement of February 2002 between the then government and the LTTE as sole authentic representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils have largely proved illusory.

"Long before disaster struck the island on December 26, 2004, negotiations had been suspended, cooperation largely ceased in the face of the continued occupation of huge tracts of land in the North East by the Sri Lankan army in the name of 'high security zones', of hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons waiting in vain to be able to return to their homes, of lack of investment for the reconstruction of the destroyed countryside.

"The new government that came to power in 2004 has not advanced the peace process, on the contrary it contains parties totally opposed to any negotiated settlement. If anything, the tsunami that has particularly affected the coastal areas in the North East, already suffering from war related destruction and very poor in comparison to the rest of country, has worsened the situation.

"While it galvanised the common people of all communities to come to each others help, the government did not follow suit. Instead of a joined effort at reconstruction and national integration the international aid has been instrumentalised for political purposes.

In the name of relief measures, the distribution of aid and the planning for reconstruction have been highly centralised in the president's office and handpicked committees at the expense of the immediate victims, including local NGOs or the Tamil Rehablitation Organisation working in the LTTE controlled areas.

"International media accounts as well as local parliamentarians have complained of government inefficiency, if not outright discrimination of the people in the North East, that includes Tamils and Muslims.

More over, emergency regulations have been reintroduced, and the army put in charge of the welfare centers. Following the most recent official arms` purchases or the government`s refusal to allow the UN Secretary General in early January to visit LTTE controlled areas devastated by the tsunami, have further raised suspicion that the government`s true intentions aim not just at isolating the Tamils and their leaders but to use the catastrophe to change the balance of forces on the ground and to effectively renounce any negotiations.

"In the Norwegian facilitated peace talks, the LTTE had agreed to renounce for the time being the Sri Lankan Tamils' right as a nation for an independent homeland Tamil Eelam and to explore the possibilities to redress decades of collective discrimination within the frame-work of large-scale internal autonomy.

"The developments during the last three years compounded by the post- tsunami experiences raise the specter that time is running out; that there is no hope for the Tamils within a united Sri Lanka, that their only chance lies in fighting for external self-determination."

Mr Chairman,

General Assembly resolution 32/130 states that in approaching human rights questions within the United Nations system, the international community should accord priority to search for solutions to mass and flagrant human rights violations.

In the island of Sri Lanka, the Tamil people's human rights and fundamental freedoms have been violated for more than fifty years. Since 1948, legislation has denied the rights of Tamils, in citizenship, language, education, religion, land and other areas.

In the 1950s and 60s the Tamil people's non-violent struggle for equality, justice and dignity was crushed by violent military repression, followed by horrific pogroms of genocidal proportions in which thousands of Tamils were killed. These persistent attacks on the Tamil community eventually gave rise to armed conflict.

During twenty years of war over 79,000 Tamils have been killed or "disappeared"; 500,000 have sought political asylum in Europe and other countries and 2375 buildings of religious places of worship have been destroyed in the North East, the traditional Tamil homeland area, in aerial bombings and artillery shelling by military forces.

Rape and murder used as a weapon of war systematically by regular armed forces, with impunity, has inflicted horrendous suffering on thousands of Tamil women.

There have been no independent inquiries into any of the above endemic and chronic violations against Tamils, despite repeated calls by human rights organisations.

Mr Chairman,

The alleviation of the suffering of the Tamil people, thereby creating conditions of normalcy in which peace talks could begin, is central to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam signed more than three years ago, with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government.

It is sad to note that although the ceasefire has created normalcy in the seven Southern provinces, normalcy does not exist for the people in the North East.

In breach of CFA article 2.1 and 2.5 people are harassed at checkpoints in the NorthEast. Over the last year the incidence of harassment, rape and sexual assault of Tamil civilians by regular armed forces has increased.

Violating CFA article 2.2, the army continue to occupy temples and churches in the North East; violating article 2.3 school buildings are still occupied by the Sri Lanka army. In a few cases, the army has withdrawn, but "High Security Zones" have been immediately built nearby.

Many people in civil society are asking, " 'Security' - for whom? Certainly not the security of local Tamil people". The situation of IDPs remains critical, they are prevented from resettling in their own homes due to these militarised zones.

Fishermen are still severely restricted in pursuing their livelihood, they are persistently harassed and intimidated by Navy and armed forces.

In violation of article 1.8 of the CFA, the government has not disarmed paramilitaries nor ensured they leave the North East. On the contrary, these paramilitaries working with the Sri Lanka armed forces have been responsible for recent assassinations in the East, of human rights activists and political leaders and activists, causing terror and destabilisation.

Mr Chairman,

It was the coastal parts of the North East which were the worst affected when the disastrous tsunami recently struck the island on December 26 last year. The majority of the casualties were Tamils from the North East. 24,500 Tamil people were killed by the tsunami and 10,000 are missing; nearly 700,000 Tamils were displaced and over 120,000 houses in Tamil areas were completely damaged.

Mr Chairman,

The authorities prevented the UN Secretary General from making a humanitarian visit, which he requested, to the North East, the areas in the island most affected by the tsunami. This is a serious violation of the UN Charter, Chapter XV Article 100 by the Sri Lankan government.

In conclusion, this Commission has the capability, the ability and the authority to immediately send a mission to Sri Lanka and ensure that in the affected areas the victims of these human rights violations receive redress. We urge the Commission to take urgent action.

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