Congressman Brad Sherman
24th District, California
Serving the San Fernando and Conejo Valleys,
Las Virgenes and Malibu
Member of US Congress Committee on International Relations
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
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 justice
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 many Tamils, the government has resorted to undemocratic methods
in controlling information. The 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 Lanka.
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,
"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
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.
The United States has an opportunity make
Sri Lanka a model and help it to evolve, by negotiating, 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 confederation or 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