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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After twenty years of armed conflict, hopes for permanent peace in the island of Sri Lanka flourished with the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) signed by then Prime Minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Mr V Pirabakaran, on February 22nd 2002.

It is with great concern that we note despite more than three years of the ceasefire holding, permanent peace does not look any closer. On the contrary, there are several serious indications of the possible breakdown of the Ceasefire Agreement and the start of impending war.

In the wake of the devastating tsunami which struck the island on December 26 last year, taking tens of thousands of lives, the majority in the NorthEast, eyes were focussed on the situation in Sri Lanka, waiting to see if the tragedy would bring together the parties to the conflict, in joint relief and rehabilitation work. It was hoped that such co-operation would lead to the stalled peace process starting up again.

The international community poured generously into tsunami relief funds, and rightly insisted that there should be a joint mechanism to distribute relief and funds for reconstruction. Hopes seemed to be fulfilled when eventually on June 24th the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) MOU was signed by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Mr Kofi Annan, said that he "hopes the agreement will help place Sri Lanka on the road to full recovery from this unparalleled tragedy."

However, hopes of imminent joint working were soon dashed. The Supreme Court on 15th July 2005 issued a stay order suspending four key provisions of the newly agreed P-TOMS, upholding a petition filed by Sinhala extremists in which they claimed that their fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution were infringed, and that they wanted the P-TOMS declared null and void.

The blatant and endemic bias in the Sri Lankan judicial system against Tamils, is a well recorded fact. Justice has been denied to Tamils systematically, over several decades, in all aspects of life. They have suffered systematic human rights violations of genocidal proportions, the perpetrators of which have not been brought to book.

Now, justice is denied to the Tamils even in the face of the massive suffering caused by the tsunami disaster last December 26.

Analysts have warned that the failure of P-TOMS will lead to a breakdown in the CFA and possible return to war.

Recently a statue of Buddha was erected illegally in Trincomalee, with political motivation, to cause tension among local communities, and clearly not for worship. The District court ordered the removal of the statue. However the Supreme Court has taken decisions negating the district court decision. Increased Sri Lanka armed forces have been stationed in the town. Local people feel insulted and humiliated by this unwarranted oppression. People are demanding impartial implementation in the enforcement of law and order.

Local people feel the act was part of a calculated plan to destabilize the situation in Trincomalee, and disrupt the implementation of post-tsunami activities that could help in promoting confidence amongst the people in the Northeast. Many believe the ultimate objective of this act is to impede the furtherance of the peace process.

It behoves yourselves as Members of the Sub-Commission, distinguished specialists in the promotion and protection of human rights, to take action, as an integral part of the international community's duty to pursue peace with dignity.

We continue to believe that this Sub-Commission can be a vehicle to express the noble values and aspirations for humanity that underpin all true efforts to promote and protect Human Rights and thereby make a real and valuable contribution to the creation of conditions in which constructive peace talks can take place, for the good of all the peoples of the island of Sri Lanka. We appeal to you to take action.

Mr / Madame Chairperson,

Many important issues are raised in the initial report of the working group on the administration of justice (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/6), including the fact that frequently investigations into human rights violations have not been handled properly.

The working paper on the implementation in domestic law of the right to an effective remedy against violations of human rights by State agents (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/15), noted that the lack of effective domestic redress may lead to institutionalisation of violations, and may contribute to a climate of impunity, and to the systematic or widespread occurrence of violations.

Article 29 of Sri Lanka's 1948 constitution specifically denied capability to the Parliament to make laws discriminatory to, in favour of or adverse to any one community which were not equally applicable to the other communities. Solemn assurances were given that the ethnic majority would not avail themselves of the numerical superiority to discriminate against the Tamils. The Privy Council held that this Article 29 was an entrenched clause and rendered the constitution and not Parliament sovereign.

In 1972, twenty four years after independence from British rule the dominant Sinhala Buddhist majority gave itself an autochthonous constitution, renamed the island as 'Sri Lanka' (the old Sinhala name) and ensured that the Constitution secured a dominant role for Buddhism. The constitutional safeguards which had hitherto debarred the enactment of discriminatory legislation were scrapped.

Racist legislation and racism have been at the heart of the political problems in the island of Sri Lanka since independence. Racist policies implemented on citizenship, language, education, land and other areas discriminate severely against Tamils.

Rule under Emergency Regulations (ER) has become the norm - for more than 30 years since 1948. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary provision) Act, made permanent in 1982, gives wide powers to the police to arrest and detain Tamils for a period of 18 months at a stretch without being produced in courts. This Act gives a free hand to the Security forces to arrest, detain, torture, rape, kill and dispose of bodies with impunity. Confessions obtained under torture are admissible in evidence and shift the burden of proof to the accused. Many detainees continue to languish in jail, without charge or trial.

Voices expressing concern have been raised over the years in this and other august human rights forums with regard to these systematic human rights violations and lack of effective domestic remedies.

In document (E/CN.4/2002/72), the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers quotes from the report of a mission to Sri Lanka composed of distinguished jurists, who found "the perception of a lack of independence of the judiciary was in danger of becoming widespread".

The Human Rights Committee (HRC), in its concluding observations of November 6 2003, stated that it remains "concerned that Sri Lanka's legal system still does not contain provisions which cover all of the substantive rights set forth in the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) ".

The HRC is concerned about - the inconclusiveness of prosecutions against police or armed forces officers, on charges of abduction and torture ; the state party's inability to identify, or inaction in identifying those responsible for the large number of disappearances ; the ignoring or rejecting of allegations of violations of freedom of expression ; persistent reports that media personnel and journalists face harassment and the fact that victims of human rights violations have been subjected to intimidation and/or threats, thereby discouraging them from pursuing appropriate avenues to obtain an effective remedy.

The pattern of bias in the Sri Lankan judicial system and the Supreme Court is well recorded.
After delays and postponements, eventually the culprits of the Bindunuwewa mass murder in October 2000, in which 27 young detainees were brutally murdered, were simply acquitted by the Supreme Court.

In the case of the Kokkadicholai massacre of 1991, the Kokkuvil massacre of September 1990 or Kumarapuram massacre of February 1996, none of the security personnel involved have been prosecuted. The Kokkuvil massacre and Kumarapuram massacre cases continue to drag on in the courts.

After the Attorney General had indicted eighteen Sinhala soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army with the murder of thirty-five Tamil civilians including fourteen children in the Mylanthanai village in Batticaloa district on August 9 1992, all the eighteen accused were acquitted by the High Court Judge in Colombo. The soldiers had made successful application to have the inquiry transferred to Colombo, for their safety - regardless of the lack of safety for the victims' witnesses, who had to travel to areas where they felt unsafe and were intimidated. The Sinhalese speaking Jury, for which the soldiers had made successful application, brought a unanimous verdict of not guilty.

We are sad to have to report that there has been no progress on the case of the assassination of Mr Kumar Ponnambalam on 5thJanuary 2000, despite ample evidence regarding the alleged perpetrators of the crime. There has been no proper investigation or punishment of culprits in the many cases of murders of human rights defenders and journalists, Mr Chandra Nehru, Mr G. Nadesan, Mr M. Nimalarajan, and Mr D. Sivaram. Delayed justice is justice denied.

Recently a statue of Buddha was erected illegally in Trincomalee, with political motivation, intent on causing tension among local communities, and clearly not for worship. The local District court ordered the removal of the statue, a decision overturned by the Supreme Court. Increased armed forces have been stationed in the town, presenting a picture of being under military occupation. Local people feel insulted and humiliated by this unwarranted oppression, and demand impartial implementation in the enforcement of law and order.

The Supreme Court, upholding a petition filed by Sinhala extremists on 15th July 2005 issued a stay order suspending four key provisions of the recently agreed Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS). This shows the inherent bias in the Sri Lankan Courts against Tamils, even in the face of the suffering caused by the catastrophic tsunami disaster of last December 26. When the structure was approved on 24th June by both parties, the tsunami victims hoped they would receive the aid that many in the world so generously gave. But after waiting more than six months they are bitterly disappointed by the action of the Supreme Court.

Two thirds of the NorthEast of the island is not under the purview of the Sri Lanka judicial system. In these areas the Tamil Eelam police, founded in 1990, and the Tamil Eelam judicial system are functioning well, are effective and accepted by the people in that area. The Tamil Eelam courts started functioning in 1993. Presently there are 120 lawyers and 26 Judges who have graduated from the law college of Tamil Eelam.

Human Rights organisations have been raising the urgent matter of the systematic human rights violations of Sri Lanka's armed forces and the lack of effective remedies in the Sri Lankan judicial system year after year in this august forum. Expatriate Tamils demonstrated recently outside UNESCO headquarters regarding the illegally erected statue of Buddha in Trincomalee.

Our urgent concerns are also of impending war should the situation deteriorate further.

We believe that this Sub-Commission can be a vehicle to express the noble values and aspirations for humanity that underpin all true efforts to promote and protect Human Rights and thereby make a real and valuable contribution for the good of all the peoples of the island of Sri Lanka.

We appeal to you to take action. Thank you

Liberation welcomes the preliminary report of Sub-Commission member Mr. Marc Bossuyt on the issue of non-discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. While still early in his mandate, it is clear that this issue is of great importance.

Liberation wishes to draw the attention of Mr. Bossuyt and the Sub-Commission as a whole to the continued discrimination of the Economic, Social and Cultural rights of the Tamils living in the traditional Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, by the Sri Lankan government and the State armed forces. In fact, this inhuman, provocative and pernicious conduct threatens to disrupt the ceasefire arranged by the International Facilitators.

As examples, Liberation points to two recent incidents. The spontaneous post-Tsunami relief offered by the International Community continues to remain blocked by the Sri Lankan state machinery from reaching the Tsunami victims living in the NorthEast of Sri Lanka, for the simple reason these victims do not belong to the majority Sinhala nation.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), a community-based volunteer institution dedicated to humanitarian relief efforts during the war and cease-fire periods in the NorthEast, was entrusted by the Tamil Diaspora and magnanimous individuals all over the world with contributions to address the immediate needs of the Tsunami victims. Spreading its network of service units and dedicated volunteers throughout the NorthEast, the TRO was able to provide the Tsunami victims with immediate relief and much required basic needs, a service it still continues.

It is an irony that a major part of the large-scale Tsunami relief offered by the international community, including multi-national institutions and world governments at state level, continues to sit in government warehouses and state banks, far from the victims. Although the US, the EU, Japan and Norway have recommended a joint mechanism action on relief work, the Government of Sri Lanka, fearing withdrawal of support of the extreme nationalist junior partners in its minority coalition, delayed action for six months. And

Finally when when the Government relented to international pressure, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka acted, as has been the pattern over the last fifty years, in a discriminatory fashion, by blocking implementation of sections of the newly-signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding distribution of post-Tsunami relief, rendering most of it inoperative.

The attitude of the government and the extreme nationalist elements in the Sinhala community, the behaviour of the Supreme Court and the deliberate action on the part of the government to keep international dignitaries, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from visiting the Tsunami-affected NorthEast, appear to precipitate distancing of Tamil people, especially the Tsunami victims, from the Sinhala majority in the country. It is indeed a pity, that a natural calamity that should have brought the two nations closer, has, on the contrary, driven a wider cleavage between them.

Former United States President Bill Clinton was able to visit a town of the Eastern Province, but only under heavy government guard and only to those areas under
government control.

Secondly, Liberation wishes to point out the sudden eruption of tension between communities resulting from the placement of statues of the Buddha as a symbol of majority Sinhala Buddhist domination in the traditional homelands of the Tamils where Buddhism is hardly practiced.

Liberation stresses that the Sri Lankan state machinery has been encouraging with impunity over the last six decades a policy of directly and indirectly-sponsored colonisation in the NorthEast. After the statue of the Buddha was erected overnight, a round-the-clock armed guard has been put in place by the government. A police/army outpost has been set up to guard the statue. We expect a colony of Sinhala Buddhist settlers will soon be brought from Sinhala areas. Tamil-speaking peasants living on the land for generations, will most likely seek to leave the area due to harassment by the armed forces and the new settlers.

This settlement practice, essentially shelved during the two decades of war between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers, is being renewed during the cease-fire period.

The erection of the statues of the Buddha in the Hindu or Christian areas of Trincomalee and the Batticaloa-Amparai districts within the last few months has caused fear and unease among the Tamil-speaking people who have demanded their removal. There have been protests and demonstrations all over the traditional Tamil areas over the desecration of their social and cultural order. Although the district court in Trincomalee ruled that the placing of the statue was unlawful, the government still continues with the armed protection of the statue, with complete disregard to the Court ruling and the feelings of the people of the area.

Bellicose posturing of extreme nationalist elements in the predominantly Sinhala areas, indecisive responses of the existing government, increased violence perpetrated by the state armed forces and paramilitary forces in the traditional Tamil homelands, and the shadow war the State has been waging on the Tamil people, indicate a decided deterioration of the situation.

We urge the Sub-Commission's Special Rapporteur on Non-discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to take these injustices into consideration as he further elaborates his

The Sub-Commission as a whole could prevail on the government of Sri Lanka to take steps to activate the post-Tsunami agreement (P-TOMS) quickly, in order to ameliorate the terrible condition in which the Tsunami victims are still suffering, and also to respect the economic, social and cultural rights of the Tamil people in their traditional homeland.

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