Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

Home Whats New Trans State Nation One World Unfolding Consciousness Comments Search

Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 2006


Written statement submitted by International Educational Development, a non-governmental organization on the Roster under agenda item on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation .February 2006

1. International Educational Development (IED) welcomes the resumption of talks between the parties to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. These talks, which will take place in Geneva, hopefully before the Commission begins its session, should be strongly supported by the international community as a whole. We acknowledge the efforts initiated and lead by the government of Norway to find a peaceful solution to this long war.

We sincerely hope that these talks take place with full recognition of both rights and duties under the Geneva Conventions and all treaty-based and customary laws of war. Without this basic context for talks, whether talks about cease fire agreements or other steps toward lasting peace, we fear that they will fail. We also hope that the talks lead to a recognition of the right to self-determination of the Tamil people and full awareness that there will be no lasting peace in Sri Lanka until the Tamil people are allowed to realize that right either within a confederated state or, if this is the only way, in a separate state.

2. It is important at the time when the parties resume dialog that the international community takes a hard look at the causes of this conflict, and carefully reviews the reasons other rounds of peace talks have failed. In this light we draw attention to geopolitical interests from outside Sri Lanka that have played a significant role in prolonging this war. Some of the States that have a role in prolonging the war have done so openly. For example, the government of India entered into the conflict with its own military. Other States' involvements have been less open, such as those that have supplied the government of Sri Lanka with weapons and a wide array of military materiel. The United States, however, has kept its participation largely hidden.

3. United States has substantial interests in Sri Lanka, especially as the United States seeks to expand its role and power in Asia. First of all Sri Lanka has airfields, such as in Palaly, that could provide highly useful bases for the United States airpower. In addition, Sri Lanka has several deep-water ports that would be very useful for United States naval power. United States interests in Trincomalee harbor, for example, was a major factor in the direct involvement of India in Sri Lanka beginning in 1987, as is apparent by the letter of annexure to the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of that year in which the Prime Minister of India stated that no action would take place in Trincolamee that was against the interests of India.

Current discussions of widening the Palk Straights to allow large vessels to pass through are disturbing in light of United States' interests. Yet other United States interests in Sri Lanka are its natural resources, such as titanium, and the potential for the exploitation of natural gas and petroleum. Most of the land and resources coveted by the United States lie in the traditional Tamil areas. United States economic involvement in the Tamil areas would severely impair Tamil self-determination rights.

4. Understanding the interests of the United States in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka goes a long way to explaining the United States' overt actions in relation to the conflict in Sri Lanka, the most prominent being its harsh rhetoric against the Tamils and their leadership under the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The United States appears determined to have the conflict in Sri Lanka viewed as terrorism and counter-terrorism rather than a war, and it continues to accuse the LTTE of acts, such as political assassinations that have either been shown to have been committed by others or that have never actually been investigated at all.

The constant repetition of this political rhetoric, which is so similar to the constant linkage of Saddam Hussain with the events of 11 September 2001 and Al-Qaeda, has also been echoed by other States that, apparently, support United States goals for the region, or who simply go along without knowing. This manifestation of the "coalition of the willing" severely impairs the possibility of a positive outcome in talks between the parties. This political rhetoric also helps to weaken still further the Geneva Conventions, viewed as "quaint" by the current United States Attorney General and so terrifyingly violated in the course of military operations in Iraq. More ominously, this steady "terrorism" rhetoric could lay the foundation for direct United States involvement in Sri Lanka affairs on the pretext of combating terrorism. Such action would, of course, obliterate Tamil self-termination.

5. Legal scholars and non-governmental organizations have been very vocal in their support for the right of the Tamil people to self-determination. In this regard, there have been hundreds of conferences, symposia, oral and written statements at the Commission as well as in many countries. IED has participated in perhaps 30 such sessions, joined by many NGO, political figures, and other legal experts.

Even the few experts unwilling to reach to the pre-colonial period to support self-determination due to "passage of time" and other practical and tactical concerns, urge that the failure, since 1949, of the Sinhala-dominated governments to afford the Tamil people basic rights in spite of negotiations with various Tamil leaders, ripens the right to self-determination as the only practical remedy for repression. The right may even ripen if, given the relative numbers of majority versus minority groups, the minority cannot effectively ever win in issues of importance to them. This, then, becomes a violation of governance rights. In Sri Lanka, in addition to the clear oppression of the Tamil minority, the Tamil people and their leadership are unable to effectively address anything of importance to the Tamil people: fishing rights, environmental concerns, or even post-Tsunami relief efforts.

6. IED cannot be certain that the planned Geneva talks will have taken place prior to the Commission as planned. If they have taken place, then the Commission must carefully review the events in light of the issue raised here. If further efforts are necessary for the talks to take place, the Commission can play an affirmative role is generating sufficient political will for the talks to take place. In any event, the Commission and the international community as a whole needs to assess properly the situation Sri Lanka in light of humanitarian law and the application of the right to self-termination and with a more complete understanding of the geopolitical interests that have long impeded resolving this conflict.

On the Rights of Child - Written statement submitted by International Educational Development, a non-governmental organization on the Roster

1. International Educational Development addressed certain concerns relating to children in Sri Lanka affected by armed conflict in an oral statement delivered at the 61st session of the Commission.

2. At the time we made that oral statement there was insufficient information about post-Tsunami relief to children in the Tamil areas. Present information indicates that the post-Tsunami period has seriously worsened the situation of Tamil children in Sri Lanka.

3. Our concerns about children affected by armed conflict in Sri Lanka has focused on what we consider politically motivated allegations of "child soldiers" in the armed forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rather than on the over-all situation of children in the war zones. The numbers of possible under-age children in the LTTE are relatively few in comparison to the numbers of Tamil children killed outright by military operations of the armed forces of the government of Sri Lanka, or children who have been injured, raped, made homeless, made orphans by government operations in the Tamil areas. The international community should focus on the plight of all the thousands of these children, not on the few instances of "child soldiers" -- especially as there has been a cease-fire in the war in Sri Lanka for a number of years and therefore no "child soldiers" in actual combat. Governments and non-governmental organizations that focus on the relatively few "child soldiers" cases are not helping either resolve the conflict or the situation of all children affected by it.

4. The focus on the few rather than on the many has been exceptionally useful to the United States and its interests in Sri Lanka. In our view this interest is not motivated by any genuine concern for children in Sri Lanka, whether the children are Tamil or Sinhala. We presented a brief review of United States interests in Sri Lanka in our written statement under item 5. These include the United States perceived need to establish military control over the region reaching from the sub-continent to the Caucasus, using a revamped Palaly airfield in the north of Sri Lanka, as well as deep water ports in the Tamil areas. Because of these interests, the US seeks to shift attention from the war, and place it in the context of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Under this scenario, Geneva Convention violations of the government of Sri Lanka are not addressed at all. The Tamil people, their aspirations and the LTTE are demonized while inquiry into serious human rights violations carried out by the Sri Lankan authorities against the Tamil people, including Tamil children, does not occur.

5. The US and NGO focus on child soldiers in the LTTE is also distressing as neither the US nor the NGOs have mentioned the far larger numbers of Sinhala child soldiers and the active recruitment of Sinhala children under the age of 17 by the Sri Lanka armed forces. As we indicated at the 61st session of the Commission, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe stated in the Sri Lanka Parliament that the government was actively recruiting 15 year old children, and had started one recruitment campaign at the very time the Secretary General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara A. Otunnu, was in Sri Lanka. Apparently only Mr. Wickramasinghe and our organization are concerned about Sinhala child soldiers or the government's under-age recruitment campaigns.

6. The Tsunami, of course, resulted in thousands of casualties of men, women and children throughout all of Sri Lanka. This has added tremendously to the difficulties of thousands children who had already been victims of the war and many thousands who had not been. However, very little international relief has reached these victims, whose numbers and needs far outweigh possible child soldiers. Indeed, many young orphans sought out the areas under LTTE control for food, shelter and schooling. What few in the international community understand is the degree to which the Sri Lanka government has prevented UN officials and aid providers from traveling to the Tamil areas -- far more affected by the Tsunami then the Sinhala areas.

And most distressingly, some non-governmental aid providers, who collected hundreds of millions of $US for Tsunami victims, were prevented from delivering any appreciable aid to the Tamil areas by the United States and the government of Sri Lanka. For example, the American Red Cross, an organization that collected millions of $US for Sri Lanka, was told by the United States authorities that under US law it was illegal for them distributed any aid in the Tamil areas.

The American Red Cross has apparently not challenged this position that so clearly defies both international humanitarian and disaster relief law. We do not have any information about what the ICRC has done about this, but we can assure the Commission that NO appreciable aid collected by the Red Cross has reached the Tamil people affected by the Tsunami. Our organization, in concert with the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, seeks the recovery of funds collected for aid to Tamils under false pretenses. Further, both the US and the UK have targeted the Tamil Relief Organization (TRO) and its international effort to get relief to the Tamils in Sri Lanka. TRO has been the only group seeking and delivering funds to Tamil Tsunami victims. The international community should work to ensure fair distribution of Tsunami relief to all victims.

7. The focus of certain governments and NGOs on LTTE child soldiers is also distressing given the huge problem of sexual slavery, child pornography and child prostitution in Sri Lanka, almost exclusively in the Sinhala community, which warrants the attention of all. According to the most sincere organizations working on these issues, Sri Lanka is a pedophile's paradise. This is especially true in the resort areas -- almost all of which are in the Sinhala part of the island.

Reports indicate that as many as 30,000 children, many of them boys, work the beaches and that there may be as many as 100,000 Sinhala children involved in child pornography and prostitution.[1] According to Sri Lanka NGOs, human rights activists feel that the sexual exploitation of children in the South is an issue largely ignored by Southern polity, which would rather spend its efforts on highlighting a few cases of children "joining" the LTTE to escape abject poverty than the thousands of cases of Sinhala children trafficked on Southern and Western beaches: a child soldier is a more valuable political commodity than a child victim of sex tourism.

As the vast majority of post-Tsunami aid has gone to the Sinhala areas, the resorts have reopened for business, bringing both the sexual predators and the young victims together again.

8. We urge concerted international effort to address the protection of children in Sri Lanka from sexual exploitation. In this light we urge the Commission's Special Rapporteur M. Juan Petit to undertake an investigative mission to Sri Lanka to investigate the post-Tsunami resurgence of child prostitution and pornography.

[1] IED presents these figures without a guarantee of their accuracy, but to make the point that the figures given by credible NGOs indicate thousands more children involved in child pornography, prostitution and trafficking than are involved as "child soldiers" in areas controlled by the LTTE.

Mail Us Copyright 1998/2009 All Rights Reserved Home