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

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1988


Statement by Mme.Fabienne Rousso-Lenoir, International Federation of Human Rights. (F.I.D.H.)

On July 29, 1987, the Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, Junius Jayewardene, signed an agreement with the intention of bringing the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka to an end. This agreement was made up of two aspects of the question: The first concerning the cessation of hostilities between the Tamil militants and the Sri Lankan armed forces; the second concerning the institution of an autonomous administrative regime in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

We shall concern ourselves here only with the first aspect of the agreement. According to the terms of the agreement, the Indian Government contracted to send troops, called the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), to Sri Lanka, with a triple mission, viz.

- to organise and maintain a cease-fire between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the groups of Tamil militants;
- to ensure the protection and security of the Tamils as well as the members of other communities residing in the northern and eastern provinces;
- to ensure the total surrender of arms by the militant Tamil groups.

After a few days of wavering, all the groups making up the Tamil guerilla force accepted to lay down their arms. However, the IPKF authorities, basing their decision on un-corroborated information that one of the groups of the guerilla force, namely, the LTTE, had not observed the terms of the agreement, launched military operations against the members of the latter group, right from the beginning of October 1987. From this date onwards IPKF repeatedly
violated its obligations entered into in the 29 July 1987 agreement.

And so, since early October 1987, under the pretext of effecting a cease-fire, the Indian troops have undertaken military operations with the aim of bringing under their control the areas held by the LTTE militants.

As far as the civilian population was concerned, the LPKF operations have been extremely lethal, marked by atrocities committed by the Indian military personnel, in no way justified by the needs of maintaining order.

According to information and corroborated testimony that the International Federation of Human Rights holds at the disposal of the Commission, the IPKF launched massive air and mortar bombardments, especially at night, indiscriminately aiming at civilian housing where the militants were supposed to be found, particularly public buildings such as schools and temples where the civilian population thought fit to find refuge. The intensity and the deadly nature of the battles have caused numerous civilians to flee the ,Jaffna peninsula to seek 'refuge' in the hope of ensuring their safety, in the Vavuniya region. This exodus often took place under extremely difficult conditions. Since the JPKF helicopters shot at sight any moving vehicle by day or by night, the refugees avoided all means of road transport. The civilians also chose to avoid the main thoroughfares for fear of being bombarded. As a result, the journey through jungle, in this period of the year, from .iaffna to Vavuniya took between twenty to forty days.

Moreover, the IPKF has prepared a blockade of the Jaffna peninsula, thus making it impossible to provide the civilian population with fresh supplies which precipitated a situation of dire want. During the period of hostilities, it is to be noted, the civilian population was deprived of even the basic nutritive elements. Even if the IPKF had subsequently proceeded to distribute food supplies, it was undertaken in such a discriminatory way that the supposed sympathisers of the LTTE were deprived of them.

In addition, it is an incontrovertible fact today that the IPKF were guilty of murderous acts committed without any justification. So it was that under the pretext of regaining control of the ,Jaffna Hospital, nurses and doctors were executed cold-bloodedly. Deserted civil buildings - a direct consequence of the embattled situation - were ransacked. Acts of rape too have been perpetrated. It is therefore clear that the IPKF has not respected one of the terms of the agreement underwriting the security of the civilian population.

The IPKF may not therefore shift the blame on to the LTTE who, it is presumed, refused to lay down their arms.

First of all, some Westerners who were able to visit Vavuniya in December 1987 witnessed that certain militant groups presumed to have laid down their arms were still armed to the teeth. These militants regrouped under the banner of "Three Stars" behaved as though they were the militia and summarily executed, rightly or wrongly, suspected individuals thought to be LTTE militants. Citizens' Committees have testified that these groups operated with the backing of the IPKF. Arrests and disappearances of persons are rife. The families of persons so concerned have no clue whatsoever as to where or why they may have been detained.

One cannot but be skeptical about the Indian Government's declarations since it systematically refuses to let the CICR into Jaffna where it might perform its invested, humanitarian mission. Likewise, no international observer has been authorised entry into the region in order to verify, as the case may be, if there had been human rights violations. The F.I.D.H. is seriously worried about the rapid deterioration of the situation in Sri Lanka and of the state of permanent insecurity that the civilian population is subjected to.

The F.I.D.H. requests the Commission on Human Rights to plead with the Indian and Sri Lankan governments to take the following measures:

- to respect their obligations, taken under the terms of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and to permit without delay and without any limitation the presence of the ICRC over there;
- to authorise without condition the right of access of the H.C.R. in all the provinces of Sri Lanka.
- to authorise the entry of non-governmental international observers into the Jaffna peninsula and the eastern provinces in order that they may freely investigate the state of the rights of man in these areas.
- to permit the HCR, the ICRC and other N.G.Os the right to visit detainees and prisoners-of-war.
- to proclaim immediately a cease-fire and to commence at once negotiations with the participation of international observers.
- to abrogate the Prevention of Terrorism Act, a law which enables the security forces, both military and police, to arrest any one, at any time, without the observance of any judi cial procedure, a law which is the cause of numerous disappearances.
- to liberate all Tamil prisoners, whether political or otherwise."

Robert Cruz, International Indian Treaty Council

"Since our leaders visited Sri Lanka in 1979, we have been concerned with the Tamil indigenous population in that country. We welcomed the July 1987 Indo- Sri Lankan Accord as a step forward for peace and justice for Tamils. Tragically, Tamils continue to suffer because of the war against them and the atrocities committed by the Indian Peace Keeping Force. We ask all to join us in urging India to accept the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) offer of a cease fire that can lead the way to guarantee Tamils all their rights as a People."

Karen Parker, Disabled Peoples' International

"The Commission, in its resolution 1987/61, requested the parties to the Sri Lanka conflict to comply with humanitarian norms and to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to fulfill humanitarian activities regarding the victims of the armed conflict. Unfortunately, Sri Lankan civilians now suffer violations of humanitarian law with a devastating effect on life and limb. In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross has not yet been granted the requested access to victims.

Of particular concern to Disabled Peoples' International in any armed conflict situation are armed attacks on hospitals in violation of Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In the Sri Lanka conflict, Manipay Green Hospital, Tellipalai Hospital and the Philip Nursing Home were shelled by the Indian Peace Keeping Force in October, 1987. The large government hospital in Jaffna was also attacked, and an eye-witness who escaped with serious injuries reported that at least 200 patients died. Several doctors and nurses were also killed. Eye-witnesses said most wounded bled to death because there was no one to attend on them.

We immediately expressed our concern to representatives of the Government of India, who in admitting the attack, alleged to us that members of the opposition forces had sought shelter in the hospital. Our information indicates that several members of the opposition forces may have been at the hospital.

However, Article 19 of the Fourth Geneva Convention is patently clear: protection of hospitals only ceases if the hospital is used to commit acts harmful to the enemy, and then only after "due warning" and a "reasonable time limit." The mere presence of some opposition combatants is insufficient cause. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agreed with us on this point, when in its decision of 17 April 1986 in our case 9213 (reprinted in the 1986/87 Annual Report of the IACHR), it found admissibility based on prima facie violations of the right to life in spite of Respondent Government's assertion that enemy soldiers were at the hospital in question.

Article 16 of the Fourth Geneva Convention requires the parties to a conflict to search for and attend to killed and wounded persons. The Indian Peace Keeping Force abandoned the sick and wounded in these hospitals, even though they were responsible for their injuries.

Another incident occurred at Punnalai Bridge, where at least 15 fleeing refugees were killed and 15 injured. The injured sought aid at Moolai Hospital, subsequently bombed on November 8. Violations at the hands of opposition forces are certain to have occurred, though verification of responsible parties has been extremely difficult.

The events we describe and many others we could present have been verified to us beyond doubt through direct communication with. inter alia, the highest Church officials in the region, Representatives of European Organisations on the scene, the families of numerous victims (Tamils and Sinhalese), and the foreign press.

We urge the Commission to request the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Disability to investigate these and other incidents involving the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka with an aim of ameliorating suffering. We sincerely regret the loss of life and injuries on all sides - rehabilitation needs will be difficult to meet. We ask all Members and Observers to urge a cease-fire and peaceful settlement of the disputes between the parties in Sri Lanka and to assist with humanitarian aid for the victims.

Martin Ennals, Minority Rights Group

"I speak on behalf of the Minority Rights Group to recall to the Commission its resolution on 12th March 1987 on the subject of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

In that resolution the Commission unanimously voted to recommend -inter alia - that the International Committee of the Red Cross should be enabled to fulfill its mandated functions of protecting victims of conflict visiting prisoners, and providing relief and rehabilitation without prejudice or discrimination.

In the 12 intervening months there have been many developments in Sri Lanka, but strife and killings continue, human rights are violated and the ICRC is still unable to visit places of detention, meet the victims and dispense relief.

There has been however the Peace Accord between Sri Lanka and India which was initially accepted by all parties and which left many of those concerned about Sri Lanka in a state of euphoria believing that the future was secure. The 29th July 1987 was the date on which the Indian Peace Keeping Force was invited to Sri Lanka as an interim instrument towards a constitutional settlement providing regional elections for Provincial Councils. The militant Tamil groups agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF and peace seemed possible. The hopes were premature. Violence recommenced. Violence attracted violence and the syndrome of conflict was repeated.

Violations of human rights, by the IPKF, by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and by Security Forces were reported in abundance. International NGOs, individual observers, newspaper reports and official statements all acknowledged that extra-judicial killings, murders of civilians, and countless other violations were carried out by all those involved in the conflict.

The purpose of this intervention, Mr.Chairman, is not to point a finger at any of the parties to the conflict as being specifically responsible. All are probably guilty of excesses which have been documented. Reports have been received from Asdia Watch, the Canadian Churches, International Alert, Amnesty International and many others. The press, both in India and Sri Lanka, and internationally, have all carried stories which justify concern no matter which side of the conflict is being reported.

The purpose of this intervention is to highlight the role which the international community can play - a responsibility recognised by the Commission in 1987 which cannot be simply ignored or forgotten in 1988.

There are several elements on international community involvement in the conflicts of Sri Lanka.

1. Refugees; The UNCHR is operating in Sri Lanka and is well placed to understand the situation and to advise both refugees and governments on the problems which confront returnees or those who decide to seek asylum. Refugees have been returned from Europe against their will and despite the advice of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. More European governments are threatening to do the same. The Indian government is encouraging those Tamils who have sought sanctuary in Madras to return and many are confused as to whether their return is required or voluntary. The UN can surely amongst its members agree to respect the right of asylum to which refugees are entitled, and to which governments are committed. Of course, it is essential that people return to their homes so that the Accord can be fulfilled and elections held. But while violence continues so does fear.

2. The Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law are quite clear that the International Committee of the Red Cross is independent, neutral and charged with the implementation of the conventions. To admit the Red Cross (ICRC) is to fulfil obligations; not to concede criticism. The Human Rights Commission of the UN in 1987 recognised this and addressed recommendations to the Sri Lanka government with the endorsement of India. The plight of the victims has not changed and the role of the ICRC deserves the same backing in 1988 as in 1987.

3. Conflict cannot be resolved without dialogue. Today there are women on hunger strike in Batticaloa to persuade those responsible that dialogue should re- commence. There can be no peace without talk: no settlement without dialogue. If the alternative to talk is killings, then talk must be the preferred option.

The UN rapporteur, HE Mr.Amos Wako referred to Sri Lanka in his report which was presented on March 1st. A positive response from the Commission would reflect the anxiety and policy reflected by the 1987 resolution and endorse the positive initiatives taken by India and Sri Lanka since 1987, while reflecting an appreciation of the political and physical fears felt by minorities seeking protection of their rights to life and safety."

Joint submission by fifty nine Tamil Organisations representing the International Tamil Community

"We are aware that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam made an offer of a cease-fire and peace negotiations on 24 February 1988 to the Prime Minister of India, the Honourable Shri Rajiv Gandhi. We are also aware that the offer for peace talks was made unconditional in a telex statement by the LTTE dated 26 February 1988 in which the fast unto death of Tamil women was raised.

We are Sri Lankan Tamils who, because of the tragic events in our country of birth, have been forced to flee. Our organisations represent thousands of Tamils around the world. These organisations have represented a wide variety of views concerning strategies to improve Tamil rights in Sri Lanka.

We are united now in this appeal to you to assist the Government of India, the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to achieve a cease-fire and meaningful negotiations regarding what is obviously our fate and the fate of our families and friends in Sri Lanka who remain at great risk."

Demonstration in Geneva organised by Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations

The Swiss Federation of Tamils organised a demonstration in Geneva which was well attended. At the end of the rally a public meeting was held. A memorandum was submitted to the Chairman of the 44th Session of the Human Rights Commission. It stated inter alia

"The whole world now knows that the Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord has not led to peace for us but has instead led to more war, death and destruction in our Tamil homeland. We appeal to you and to the whole world to consider how we can solve the Tamil situation by peaceful means. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mr.Premadasa, has himself pointed out that 'genocide is now being enacted by the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) instead of Sinhala army, a tragedy for the Tamils." The government of India which championed the Tamil cause up to the signing of the accord is now committing genocide. We are sure you join our distress over what has taken place since 10th October, 1987:

1. Killing of more than 2,000 innocent civilians, mostly elderly;

2. Injuring thousands of civilians in their houses, places of refuge, etc.;

3. Raping of Tamil women and girls in a mass scale;

4. Destruction of houses, schools, temples to the extent that Tamil homeland had never witnessed in known history;

5. Making 500,000 persons (more than half the population of the North) homeless;

6. Removal of the belongings of the people such as gold, jewelleries, electrical and electronic goods, furniture, etc.

We hand over a copy of a video tape and copies of photographs which may provide at least some account of the situation caused by the JPKF together with a few documents received from our sister organisation in Paris and a copy of a memo from the LTTE.

We appeal to you to use your good offices to bring about a political solution to save the Tamils. We rely on your immediate intervention to save us."

Full text of a memorandum submitted by LTTE to the 44th session of the UN Commission of Human Rights, February 1988 (source: Tamil Voice International, 15 March 1988)

Six months have elapsed since India signed the so-called peace' accord with Jayewardene's regime to end the ethnic strife in the island. The accord, which was acclaimed by both India and Sri Lanka as a monumental historical achievement in bringing about peace to the island and ethnic reconciliation, has miserably failed in its spirit and its objectives. Contrary to everybody's expectations, the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord has brought war, violence, death and destruction.

Guardian and Saviour turned Oppressor

It is a tragic paradox that it is the oppressed people of Tamil Eelam for whom the accord pledged to bring peace and justice who suffered immensely with massive loss of life. What deeply shook the innocent Tamils was that India, who relentlessly championed their legitimate cause, whom they regarded as their guardian and saviour, has turned to be their oppressor. The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which was sent to the Tamil homelands to protect the Tamil people, to maintain peace and to ensure ethnic harmony, has assumed the role of an army of occupation fighting a bloody war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the vanguard movement of the Eelam Tamils which spear-headed an armed resistance campaign for more than ten years to defend the Tamil people against state repression and terror.

Apart from the incalculable damage done to Tamil life and property, the Indian military action has further complicated a complex problem and destroyed all hopes of an early settlement of the issues.

What went wrong with the Accord?

Why is it that the pledges given to the Tamils by the Indian Prime Minister that the accord would bring them full regional autonomy with sufficient devolution of powers for self rule could not be fulfilled ? Why did the government of India, which has been mediating over the issue for several years for a peaceful negotiated political settlement and was vehemently critical of Sri Lanka's attempt to resolve the problem by military means, launch a ruthless war in callous disregard of civilian life and property seriously violating all norms of human rights? What prompted India to resort to the extreme measure of armed confrontation against a popular liberation organisation to whom she had been providing sanctuary, moral and material assistance, whom she recognised as the dominant political movement of the Tamils ? These are some of the pertinent questions raised by those who are genuinely concerned about the present predicament of the people of Tamil Eelam.

Extraordinary Hurry and Haste

The critics of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord would agree that one of the serious mistakes made by the Government of India was the extraordinary hurry and haste in which the accord was signed without eliciting popular discussion and consent both from the Tamils and Sinhalese communities.

This gave rise to suspicion, fear and opposition to the accord among wide sections of the popular masses in Sri Lanka. The Indian government which had been mediating on the ethnic problem for years with painstaking tolerance and patience suddenly rushed through the accord as a spectacular break-through to the Tamil-Sinhala impasse issue without giving any thought to the wishes and aspirations of the people directly affected by the agreement. Apart from the President and some of his cabinet colleagues the accord stands opposed by prominent ministers of the ruling party including the Prime Minister, the main opposition parties, the powerful Buddhist Sangha and the Sinhala extremist organisations. The Sinhalese fear that the accord has infringed the sovereignty of the country. The Tamil community, too, is seriously disappointed since the provincial council proposals envisaged in the accord fall short of their political aspirations.

Tamils feel cheated and betrayed

The Prime Minister of India, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, on several occasions, has assured the Tamils that the accord would bring them full regional autonomy short of an independent state. But in practice this has not taken place. The two enactments passed in the Sri Lankan Parliament recently - the Provincial Council Bill and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution - do not contain the necessary provisions to fulfill the basic political demands of the Tamils. Firstly, the crucial question of merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces into a single regional unit is not vet resolved to the satisfaction of the Tamils.

There is no constitutional guarantee for the merger of these Tamil provinces apart from the verbal assurance given by President Jayawardene. Secondly, the powers devolved to the Provincial Councils are extremely limited. The Councils have not been given adequate powers on crucial subjects like land, agriculture, fisheries. education, employment etc., which are reserved for the centre. Furthermore, the President and Parliament are vested with extraordinary powers over the legislative and executive authority of the provincial councils. A presidential proclamation or an ordinary legislation in Parliament could dissolve the Provincial Councils. Therefore, contrary to the Indian Prime Minister's assurances, the devolution package granted to the Tamils is an empty shell devoid of any political authority. India too agrees that the provincial framework fails to meet Tamil aspirations but has expressed hope that the Sri Lankan President would grant more concessions in the course of time. The Tamils do not have such hopes. They feel cheated and betrayed.

Superficial and Myopic View

The government of India has to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs. India, which took the active mediatory role on behalf of the Tamils, should have pressurised Sri Lanka and secured adequate constitutional guarantees for Tamil rights and sufficient powers of autonomy for Tamil provinces. What disillusioned the Tamils was that India, instead of persuading Jayewardene to carry out his obligations and commitments in the accord, launched a sudden, unexpected war against the LTTE to disarm the organisation by force. This hasty decision on the part of India further complicated the situation and contributed to the severity of Jayawardene's intransigence. The decision to launch a full-fledged war against the LTTE against the back-ground of a peace initiative when the moral obligation on the part of India was to seek the smooth implementation of the terms of the accord was a grave and serious blunder.

What prompted the Indian policy-makers to make this controversial decision with its disastrous consequences still remains a mystery. It can only be attributed to the superficial and myopic vision of the Indian leadership of a very complicated historical problem.

LTTE supports India's geo political concerns

The arguments advanced by India that LTTE's reluctance to accept the Accord unconditionally and its refusal to surrender their arms are the factors that compelled India to resort to military action are unconvincing and untenable. These vague generalisations cannot justify the massive military onslaught with a heavy toll of civilian casualties against a war-torn population who fervently hoped that India would bring them peace and solace.

LTTE's stand on the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord and on the issue of surrendering the arms have been explicitly stated in our several letters to the Indian Prime Minister and in our official statements and documents. The LTTE did not oppose the Accord nor did it refuse to surrender the arms. We have serious reservations on the Accord particularly on the Provincial Council proposals set out in the Agreement to resolve the ethnic problem. We are of the opinion that these proposals have serious limitations and fall short of Tamil aspirations. But we are aware that there are other aspects of the Accord that deal with India's strategic interests.

Our organisation fully recognises India's pre-eminent role in South Asia and respects her geopolitical sensitivities and strategic compulsions. The LTTE also supports India's policy of declaring the Indian ocean as a zone of peace and her opposition to the penetration of international forces of subversion in the region. Therefore, we support the aspects of the Accord which deal with India's bilateral relations with Sri Lanka and her regional policies. In our letters to the Indian Prime Minister we pledged to cooperate with India in the implementation of the Accord if it promotes the Tamil interests and protects Tamil lives. This is our position in so far as the Accord is concerned. We were under the impression that India fully appreciated our position. Though the LTTE was not a party to the Accord nor was it consulted in the framing of the Agreement, we pledged to cooperate with India with the objective of avoiding any conflict with Indian interests.

LTTE pledged surrender of arms

In so far as the arms issue is concerned the LTTE never refused to surrender its arms. During his lengthy discussions with the Indian Prime Minister Mr.Rajiv Gandhi in July last year, the L'ITE leader Mr.V.Pirabaharan pledged to surrender the arms in stages following certain assurances given by the Indian leader. Accordingly the LTTE surrendered a substantial portion of its arms to the IPKF. The rest of the weapons were to be surrendered once an Interim Government was formed with a majority role for the LTTE. The LTTE's pledge to hand over the remaining weapons and the LTTE's role in the proposed interim administration are clearly stated in a written Agreement entered between the Government of India and the LTTE on the 28th September 1987.

The crucial question that can be posed now is, why did the Government of India choose to wage a disastrous war against the LTTE when our organisation pledged to cooperate with the implementation of the Accord and has been surrendering the arms according to modalities worked out with India.

Any rational thinking person will not accept India's contention that a war was necessary to disarm the LTTE and to implement the Accord. Everybody will agree that the war was counterproductive since it brought heavy casualties on both sides, caused untold suffering to ordinary citizens and obstructed the implementation of the Accord.

Unwarranted, unjust and unwise

The war against the LTTE was unwarranted, unjust and unwise. By opting for such ruthless and high-handed action India fell a prey to the shrewd and cunning manipulations of ~Jayewardene's regime. Sri Lankan diplomacy from the inception was aimed at creating a conflict between India and LTTE. Sri Lanka manipulated the events in such a devious manner that India was finally caught in that diplomatic trap and was compelled to do Sri Lanka's dirty job of liquidating the Tamil freedom fighters.

It should be noted that following the signing of the Accord, the Sri Lankan Government has neither carried out her obligations nor co-operated with India to implement it. On the contrary, Sri Lanka took certain measures that seriously violated the terms of the Accord.

Though a General Amnesty was proclaimed by the Sri Lankan President for political and other prisoners held in custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other Emergency Laws, Sri Lanka did not release all political prisoners. Sri Lanka also failed to carry out her obligations of withdrawing Emergency Regulations in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and disarming the Home Guards.

Violation of Peace Accord

What angered the Tamils most was that Sri Lanka, immediately following the signing of the Accord, launched a massive programme of colonising the Tamil areas with Sinhalese settlers under the cover of rehabilitation and re- settlement. Thousands of new Sinhalese settlers were brought to Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya areas and settled in Tamil villages. These villages were deserted by Tamil peasants who were up-rooted from their traditional lands by racial violence and state terrorism. To further provoke Tamil anger, Sri Lanka started opening up police stations in Tamil areas with Sinhala personnel. Alarmed over these developments we registered our protest with India hut no action was taken.

One of the assurances given by the Indian Prime Minister was the formation of an Interim Government with LTTE playing a dominant role. We were also assured that the problem of resettlement and rehabilitation of Tamil refugees and the formation of a Tamil Police Force would he the responsibility of the Interim Administration. But neither Sri Lanka nor India took any concrete steps to form the Interim Government. There was a calculated delay in this matter and Sri Lanka continued with her colonisation programme and started inducting a Sinhalese Police administrative machinery in the North.

Induction of Armed Tamil Groups

What was more disturbing at that time was the arrival of armed Tamil groups from South India who, with the patronage of the IPKF, established bases in the North and East started harassing the LTTE as well as the public.

We were rather shocked and surprised why the Government of India chose to arm these groups and to dispatch them to the Tamil areas at a sensitive time when the peace process was being introduced and disarming of the LTTF was taking place. This is one of the reasons that led to our disenchantment with Indian policy on the Tamil issue.

Because of these negative developments, the LTTE launched a fast-unto-death campaign spearheaded by our political wing leader Mr. Thileepan seeking redress to our grievances. The campaign soon expanded into a mass non-violent movement with the active participation of the popular masses. At the initial stages the Indian Government ridiculed the non-violent campaign of the LTTE but soon realised that it was turning into a massive national uprising with mounting anti-Indian feelings.

The Indian High Commissioner, Mr. Dixit rushed to .Jaffna to listen to our grievances on the 9th day of the fast. when Thileepan was reaching the brink of death. Mr.Dixit offered vague assurances which failed to meet our demands. The fast continued and Thileepan died. It is after Thileepan's death, and when the mass agitation took a serious turn into a national outcry, that Mr.Dixit came with proposals to set up an interim administration. If the Government of India had acted without delay Thileepan's life would have been saved.

Scuttling Interim Administration

The proposed interim administration soon ran into serious difficulty when President Jayawardene announced the list of names contrary to the order of preference suggested by the LTTE. Sri Lanka demanded from us a list of names for the Chief Administrator as well as the member-s of the Council. The list was given in the order of preference, giving larger representation to the people of the Eastern Province. Jayawardene deliberately changed names and rejected LTTE's nominee for the Chief Administrator. Finally, the proposed Interim Government was dropped. The Sri Lanka Government deliberately sabotaged it and blamed the LTTE for its "intransigence." The Government of India supported Sri Lanka's stand. Once again, the Tamils were betrayed.

It was during this time that a tragic incident occurred with far-reaching consequences which further added to the estrangement of relations between India and the LTTE. It was the incident in which two LTTE regional commanders and ten senior members were compelled to commit suicide in the custody of the IPKF.

Though these LTTE leaders were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on the coastal waters of Point Pedro, they were kept in the protective custody of the IPKF at Palalv Camp. Sri Lanka demanded that these LTTE men should be taken to Colombo for interrogation. But the Government of India gave us an assurance that they would be released soon. The arrested Tiger leaders had already warned both Sri Lanka and India that they would swallow cyanide capsules and kill themselves rather than face torture and possible death at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces.

We argued with the Government of India that the arrest of these LTTF leaders constituted a serious violation of the Accord since LTTE men were give general amnesty. We also insisted that the protection of the lives of our members was the responsibility of the IPKF which assumed the role of avoiding conflicts between the Sri Lankan security forces and Tamil guerrillas. We also warned India of a possible outburst of violence if the LTTE men were massacred.

Our plea to secure the release of our leaders was a minor concession we demanded from both India and Sri Lanka who had just entered into major agreement to resolve the ethnic conflict. But Jayawardene was very obstinate. The Indian High Commissioner, Mr.Dixit, who held lengthy discussions with Sri Lankan President failed in his diplomatic endeavour. The result was a great tragedy. The massacre of twelve prominent LTTE men, who were great heroes of the Tamil Liberation war, outraged Tamil sentiments.

Pulendran. the regional commander' of Trincomalee and Kumarappa, the former regional commander' of Batticaloa, were highly respected leaders in the Eastern Province who had spearheaded a courageous resistance campaign against Sri Lankan security forces in defence of the I)eople. The tragic circurnstances in which they were killed angered the Tamil population and there was widespread violence and racial clashes in the Eastern Province which resulted in the death of several, mainly Sinhalese civilians. Ignoring the outraged sentiments of an angry people and the provocative circumstances which led to the outbreak of spontaneous mass violence, both Sri Lanka and India accused the LTTE of master-minding racial conflict. What followed was a top level conference in Colombo between India and Sri Lanka in which a series of tough measures, including military action against the LTTE, were decided upon.

Declaration of War

While the LTTE and the people of Tamil Eelam were mourning over their dead heroes, the Government of India mobilised its Peace Keeping Force for a bloody war against the Tamils. Neither the Tamil people, nor the LTTE, anticipated, even in their wildest dreams, a war with India. For the Tamils, India was their protector, guardian and saviour; and the presence of the Indian troops was looked upon as an instrument of peace and love. For the LTTE, India was their a promoter, a friendly power who provided sanctuary and armed assistance, an ally who respected its role in the liberation war' and recognised its political importance. Therefore, the Indian decision to launch a war against the LTTE shook the Tamil nation by surprise and anguish.

Deadly Weapons

What horrified the Tamil people was the brutal and ruthless manner in which the Indian troops conducted the military campaign in callous disregard for human life and property. The war was a nightmare. To break through the LTTE's stiff resistance and to capture Jaffna town, which took nearly two weeks, the Indian troops used all its available firepower in a most ruthless manner in the densely populated areas of the Peninsula. The most deadly weaponry that caused heavy casualties among the civilian population were the mortar and artillery shells. From all the military camps mortar and artillery shells rained on the people from every direction for 2-1 hours a day continuously for weeks. There was no escape. People were killed everywhere. The civilians who took shelter in temples, schools, and even refugee camps were not spared. Dead bodies were littered everywhere. The injured bled to death. Yet the Indian army kept on shelling irrespective of the mass killing of civilians. Bombers and helicopter gunships continued pounding civilian targets adding to the death and devastation of innocent people. When the Indian troops advanced interior they wrought havoc. Innocent civilians, including women and children, were massacred in a most barbaric manner. Houses were destroyed, temples desecrated and shops looted.

Brutal rape

The worst crime committed by the Indian troops was the rape of Tamil women. Hundreds of Tamil women were raped brutally and most of them were done to death after sexual violence. This brutality deeply wounded the sentiments of the people and the hate for the Indian army became widespread. The IPKF was renamed the Innocent People Killing Force. Among the most brutal massacres committed by the JPKF was the mass killing at the Jaffna General Hospital. The Indian troops stormed into the Hospital and killed in cold blood over a hundred and injured scores of people. Four doctor's were senselessly slaughtered and several nurses raped and murdered. In this ruthless military campaign, 1,400 innocent Tamil civilians were killed and several thousands injured. Colossal damage was done to Tamil property.

Malicious Propaganda

The Indian Government's assertion that the LTTE fighters used women and children as human shields was a baseless lie. The IPKF propaganda that old women were armed with pistols, children carried hand grenades and young girls hid sub-machine guns under their skirts was nothing but fabricated tales concocted to justify the unacceptable rate of civilian casualties.
The truth is that the Indian army intelligence miscalculated the LTTE's strength, fire-power and its fierce determination to resist.

When pressurised by IDelhi policy-makers to do a quick lob, the IPKF waded in using maximum firepower in total disregard of civilian casualties . Apart from the casualties inflicted, the IPKF brought extreme hardships to the civilian population. Electricity was cut off purposely for more than two months, which plunged the entire Jaffna Peninsula into darkness and paralysed all industrial work. Water supply too was cut off. IPIKF banned public and private transport putting a halt to food and medical supplies reaching the Peninsula from Southern Sri Lanka. There was a ban on fishing. Such harsh measures drove the civilian population to the brink of starvation. There was total disruption of the socioeconomic life of the people. The other unpopular measure that brought immense suffering to the civilian population was a round the clock curfew imposed on the Peninsula which lasted for more than two months. Even today, after three-and-a-half months of the declaration of war, dusk-to-dawn curfew continues.

News Blackout

The inhuman brutalities and other' cruel crimes committed on our people by the Indian troops could not he brought to the notice of the world community because of the total black-out of news by India. International media was prevented from entering the 'war zone . The occasional press notes released by the LTTE was branded as malicious distortion of truth. On the first day of the war itself the Jaffna local newspaper's were forcefully silenced. The Indian troops stormed into these newspaper offices, arrested the journalists and blasted the printing machinery with explosives. The Tamils were shocked beyond belief to see India which claims to he the guam'dian of democratic liberties, had adopted this high-handed method to muzzle the local media which functioned as the only voice of our people. Having suppressed the local press, and blocked the inter'national media, the Government of India effectively utilised the state-continued media to put out fabricated stories about the war and to malign the LTTE.

We pleaded with India to send a team of observers from Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists to investigate the violations of human rights and extra-judicial killings but our request was turned down.

Today, after six months of the signing of the Accord, the war continues with its violence and destruction of life.

The Indian claim that peace and normalcy are returning to Tamil areas is far from the truth. The conditions of war prevail and human suffering continues. The IPKF and LTTE guerrillas are still engaged in violent confrontation. Cordon-off operations, house-to-house searches, search and destroy missions, mass identification parades, arrests, detention and torture of Tamii youth continues unabated by the JPKF. The deployment of several thousand troops has turned the Jaffna Peninsula into a massive military encampment. There are military sentry posts in every junction and on main roads, where rigorous checking systems operate. There is no freedom of public mobility.

The Tamil areas are placed under a rigid military administration. This situation cannot be described as normal. The Government of India assumes that the time is ripe for the induction of a political process and polls in Tamil areas. But the Tamils feel that this artificial normalcy achieved by military occupation and domination is not a congenial atmosphere for democratic political practice.

The LTTE has been pleading with the Government of India, since the beginning of the war, to call off the military offensive, to declare a cease-fire and to initiate a dialogue to bring about peace and normalcv. The LTTE asks for a status-quo-ante, the return of the Indian troops to pre offensive positions anti the re activation of the 28th September Agreement which allows the formation of an Interim Government. The Government of India has rejected outright LTTE's suggestions and demands total surrender and unconditional acceptance of the Accord.

Plea for Negotiation

The Indian position is unfair, unjust and undemocratic. This intransigent attitude will prolong the conflict and perpetuate the agony of our people. It is the Tamil people who have the right to decide their own political destiny. The Government of India has no right to super-impose a political framework which the Tamil opinion feels totally inadequate, and fall short of their legitimate political aspirations. But if the Government of India attempts to do so it will amount to a grave injustice done to our people. We call upon this forum to give urgent and serious consideration to the predicament of our people, and urge the Government of' India to abandon its militaristic' approach and initiate negotiations with the LTTE to find a peaceful negotiated settlement to the Tamil issue. We appeal to this body and to the humanitarian conscience of the civilised world to rescue this helpless and voiceless people, particularly as they have no other avenues for redress, by ensuring that human rights violations are minimized through the immediate intervention of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, The International Red Cross and other international humanitarian organisations.

Comment by Tamil Voice International, 1 March 1988

Once again the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations meets in Geneva, where the 44th session of the Commission commenced on February 1, 1988 and will continue its sittings until March 11. Delegates from member nations of the world, international observers and human rights activists gather and espouse lofty ideals and participate on varying issues of human rights and their violations. India and Sri Lanka are full members of this commission along with 41 other nations.

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Charter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They recognised the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The Human Rights Charter in one of its 30 articles says "whereas it is essential if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by rule of law."

The racial oppression of the black people in South Africa, violations of human rights in occupied Arab territories, Chile and even Cyprus, are as always and quite rightly high on the agenda, whilst similar issues in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are conveniently overlooked or judiciously ignored.

Last year's Human Rights Commission unanimously adopted a resolution co-sponsored by Argentina, Canada and Norway on the situation in Sri Lanka. This was made possible only after many years of work and reporting on the abuses and violations by several non-governmental organisations. Above all, India too thought that it was an opportune moment to censure Sri Lanka and therefore was able to secure wide support for the resolution. This resolution called for the application of universally accepted rules of humanitarian law and fundamental freedoms. More pointedly, it called on the Sri Lankan government to co-operate with the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure compliance of humanitarian standards and assistance and protection of all victims, and expressed the hope that the Sri Lankan government will act within the sprit of the resolution.

The government of Sri Lanka has not complied with any of the requests of the Commission, and on the contrary has continued its violations with impunity. Then came the Indo-Sri Lankan peace agreement and the Indian military presence in the Tamil provinces in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Today there are well over 70,000 Indian troops in Tamil areas alone and numerous testimonies provide irrefutable evidence of atrocities against civilian population and wanton destruction of life and property. The government of India is no more the guarantor of peace or protector of Tamils but has regrettably become a party to the dispute. In its war against the Tamil Tigers, India has violated humanitarian laws and, as admitted by the Prime Minister and senior ministers of Sri Lankan cabinet, is carrying on atrocities against a defenceless civilian population.

India is colluding with Sri Lanka and intent on keeping the International Committee of the Red Cross out of the troubled areas in contravention of the Geneva conventions and UNHRC resolution. By that resolution India too stands indicted today along with Sri Lanka. India by obstructing the implementation of the UNHCR resolution is practising double standards in the conduct of its international affairs. The delegates of the Human Rights Commission should not stand idle but in the name of humanity should seek redress for a people who are voiceless.

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