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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Sub Commission 1995
UN SUB COMMISSION ON PREVENTION
OF DISCRIMINATION AND PROTECTION OF MINORITIES
47TH SESSIONS: AUGUST 1995
- Joint Written Statement by 21 Non Governmental Organisations
under Agenda Item on violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Memorandum presented by the International Federation of Tamils
Give Peace a Chance in the island of Sri Lanka
- Response of International Federation of Tamils
to the Statement by Ambassador A.B.Goonetileke of Sri Lanka, 3 August 1995
- Written statement of International Educational Development on the situation in Sri Lanka
under Agenda Item 6
Joint Written Statement by 21 Non Governmental Organisations
- under Agenda Item on Question of the violation of Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms, including policies of racial discrimination and segregation and of apartheid, in all countries, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories: Report of the Sub-Commission under Commission of Human Rights Resolution 8 (XXXIII) - E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/NGO/32, 9 August 1995
Joint written statement submitted by International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations and World Federation of Democratic Youth, non governmental organisations in consultative status (category I), African Association of Education for Development, American Association of Jurists, Indigenous World Association, International Association against Torture, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Federation of Human Rights, International Indian Treaty Council, International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations, International League for Human Rights, Pax Romana and World Society of Victimology, non governmental organisations in consultative status (category II) and Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, International Association of Educators for World Peace, International Educational Development, International Federation of Free Journalists, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Liberation and Movement against Racism, For Friendship Among Peoples and Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia, non governmental organisations on the roster.
The Secretary-General has received the following communication, which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council Resolution 1296 (XLIV)
Our organisations are gravely concerned with the impunity with which the Sri Lanka armed forces continue to commit gross and inhumane violations of human rights and humanitarian law. We regret that attempts by the Sri Lankan government to address international criticisms of its human rights record have been of a largely cosmetic nature.
In May this year, President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared that it may be necessary to launch an all out attack in the Jaffna peninsula and that this 'would mean a lot of civilian casualties' and the 'place would be wiped out'.
In May, June and July the Sri Lanka armed forces launched a genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people in the Tamil homeland in the North-East.
In early July alone, 245 Tamil civilians including around one hundred women and children were killed in the North. More than 470 were injured. Indiscriminate and incessant night shelling of Tamil villages in the north led tens of thousands of Tamil civilians to evacuate their homes.
The Sri Lanka airforce indiscriminately bombed villages and targetted temples, places of worship and schools.
Sellachennathy Hindu Temple was bombed. St.Peters Church and St.Peters School in Navaly where hundreds had sought shelter from the incessant shelling was bombed on 10 July 1995. More than 120 including 13 babies died in their mother's arms. The Pope has expressed his deep sorrow at the bombing of the Church and the loss of civilian lives.
The Sri Lanka government, initially denied the bombing of the St.Peters Church. Then it criticised the ICRC representative for reporting the incident to the world media without consulting the Government. Later the government promised to hold an inquiry into the incident.
Finally the Sri Lanka Foreign Minister declared that the government will 'boldly apologise' for the attack even before the findings of the inquiry.
The aerial bombardment of civilian population centres and places of worship follow a pattern set by the Sri Lanka armed forces over the past several years and President Kumaratunga's belated promise to investigate the recent violations, must ring hollow in the ears of the Tamil people whose kith and kin have lost their lives or their limbs in the bomb outrage.
The Sri Lanka government has also imposed a total economic blockade on the transport of goods, including supplies of essential food and medicines, to the North. Hundreds of Tamil civilians lie injured in Jaffna hospital without treatment. We note with concern, that on 25 July, the Sri Lanka Navy seized food cargo intended for civilians in the North from a ship escorted by the ICRC.
The Sri Lanka Army has also unleashed a reign of terror in the East. Arbitrary arrests and reprisal attacks on Tamil villages in the Batticaloa area have become commonplace. Tamil civilians have been compelled by the Sri Lanka army to act as human shields to detect land mines in the East.
Further during the past few months, in Colombo, Kandy and elsewhere in the South, hundreds of Tamils have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured. Many have 'disappeared' and bodies found floating in the waterways and lakes near Colombo have been identified as those of Tamils.
During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commission have heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern at the situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka. The record shows that it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people.
We are constrained to condemn the actions of the Sri Lanka government as gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law, intended to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil people.
We urge the Commission to
(1) condemn the continued violations of human rights and humanitarian law by the Sri Lanka authorities;
(2) call upon Sri Lanka to lift the economic blockade on the Tamil homeland; and
(3 to monitor the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka as a matter of grave urgency.
Memorandum presented by the International Federation of Tamils
- Give Peace a Chance in the island of Sri Lanka, 14 August 1995
The International Federation of Tamils is gravely disturbed and disappointed at the breakdown of the peace process and the onslaught launched by the Sri Lanka armed forces on the Tamil people.
Over the years successive Sri Lanka governments have broken pacts, dishonoured agreements and aborted attempts to reach a peaceful and just resolution of the Tamil national question. In 1995, it is the same story all over again and Sinhala chauvinism has once again triumphed over the voice of reason and justice.
The election of the new Peoples Alliance government in August 1994, the subsequent election of Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the vote that she received from the Sinhala people in support of the peace process, led to a wide spread belief that she would take meaningful measures to end the 40 year oppression of the Tamil people - an oppression which had led to the rise of the lawful Tamil armed resistance movement.
Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga's own appointee as Chairman of the Sri Lanka State Television, exposed the hidden agenda of the Sri Lanka Government in a widely publicised article in the Sri Lanka Sunday Observer on 25 June 1995:
".. a hidden agenda seeped into the government's peace effort. Instead of making a genuine effort to cultivate confidence and trust with the Tiger leadership and exploring 'common ground', the government got side tracked by a different strategy: to try and isolate the Tiger leadership from the Tamil masses so that the military could corner and defeat them.
The military establishment, together with most Sinhala intellectuals and left wing politicians, as well as some anti LTTE Tamil groups had been preaching this was for some time. This became the aim of the Presidential initiative too. In other words the peace process began to resemble a tactical episode in the government's strategy to crush the Tigers. Indeed President Chandrika even spoke about such an intention publicly... The LTTE soon became disillusioned and pulled away from negotiations suspecting ulterior motives."
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who had campaigned for election on a platform for peace, openly declared on 21 May 1995 that she proposes to achieve peace by waging war.
In an interview with India Today on 30 April 1995, she declared belligerently: "To defeat the LTTE you have to launch an all out attack (which would mean a lot of Tamil civilian casualties) and the place (Jaffna) will be wiped out." When asked whether 'that was possible' she replied: 'Ofcourse it is possible'.
Sri Lanka bombers target temples in the North
Under the pretence of a military operation against the LTTE, the Sri Lanka government launched an intensive bombing and shell attack directed at Tamil civilian population centres in the Jaffna peninsula on 9 July 1995.
During the first six days of the onslaught, 245 Tamil civilians including almost one hundred women and children were killed. More than 470 were injured.
High flying supersonic jets indiscriminately bombed villages and also targetted temples, places of worship and schools where villagers had sought refuge from the incessant shelling. A large number of houses and hard earned belongings have been destroyed. These aerial bombardments follow a pattern set by the Sri Lanka armed forces over the past several years.
St.Peters Church and St.Peters School in Navaly at a great distance away from the line of battle and where hundreds had sought shelter was deliberately bombed. More than 120 died including 13 babies in their mother's arms. Rescue workers reported torn limbs and pieces of human flesh strewn over the area.
It appears that President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government has intensified its attacks on the Tamil people with impunity, seemingly confident that there will be no international protest or outcry.
Continual shelling of Tamil villages in the North
Indiscriminate and continual night shelling of Tamil villages in the North has led three hundred thousand of Tamil civilians to evacuate their homes. During certain periods shells were fired at the rate of almost one per minute.
The Manipay Hospital was struck by indiscriminate shelling and patients were removed to' safe houses'. Sellachennathy Hindu Temple was bombed.
Total economic blockade of Tamil homeland
The Sri Lanka government has also imposed a total economic blockade on the transport of goods, including supplies of essential food and medicines, to the North. Hundreds of Tamil civilians lie injured in Jaffna hospital without treatment. Again on 25 July, the Sri Lanka Navy seized food cargo intended for civilians in the North from a ship escorted by the ICRC. The ICRC has lodged its objections to the Sri Lanka government at this high handed conduct. At the same time, influential political supporters of President Kumaratunga's government have demanded the expulsion of the ICRC from Sri Lanka.
Condemned as breaches of the Geneva conventions
On 11 July 1995, the International Red Cross representative in Jaffna, expressed concern at these attacks on Tamil civilian population centres.
On the same day, Jaffna Bishop Thomas Savundranayagam called upon President Chandrika Kumaratunga to stop these attacks on churches, temples and schools. He pointed out that at the time of bombing, displaced Tamil civilians had sought shelter in these places of worship.
Pope John Paul said on 12 July that he was suffering along with the families of the people killed when (Sri Lanka) air force bombs hit a church in Sri Lanka.
The Canadian Government and other Western Governments including Russia have expressed their concern at the loss of civilain lives caused by the attack launched by Sri Lanka.
On 12 July 1995, the Humanitarian Law Project, International Educational Development expressed its particular concern that the onslaught launched by the Sri Lanka armed forces had followed upon President Chandrika Kumaratunga's statement to an Indian journal that it may be necessary to launch an all out attack in the Jaffna penisula and that this 'would mean a lot of civilian casualties' and 'the place would be wiped out'.
Prevarication by Sri Lanka
The Sri Lanka government, initially denied the bombing of the Church. Then it criticised the ICRC representative for reporting the incident to the world media without consulting the Government.
Later the government promised to hold an inquiry into the incident. Finally the Sri Lanka Foreign Minister declared that the government will 'boldly apologise' for the attack even before the findings of the inquiry. More recently, Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga, appears to have backtracked yet again and denied responsibility for the attack on St.Peters church in Navaly.
These aerial bombardments of civilian population centres and places of worship follow a pattern set by the Sri Lanka armed forces over the past several years.
President Kumaratunga's protestations, must ring hollow in the ears of the Tamil people and all those genuinely concerned with ending the continuing inhumane violations of humanitarian law by the Sri Lanka armed forces.
Sri Lanka Army unleashes a reign of terror in the East
The Sri Lanka Army has also unleashed a reign of terror on Tamil villages in the East.
The Sri Lanka government has sought to extend its colonisation of the Tamil homeland in the East by establishing fresh armed Sinhala settlements.
The Sri Lanka security forces arrests Tamils arbitrarily and on the following day discards the dead bodies of those arrested on the streets. Sri Lanka army is using Tamil civilians as human shields to detect land mines in the East.
Where the LTTE has successfully attacked Sri Lanka army camps, the Sri Lanka Army has retaliated by attacking Tamil villages and killing civilians. Complaints about the conduct of the Sri Lanka army have been raised in the Sri Lanka Parliament by the MP for the area.
Tamil bodies float in the waterways near Colombo
In Colombo, Kandy and elsewhere in the South, hundreds of Tamils have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured. Many have 'disappeared' and bodies have been found floating in the waterways and lakes near Colombo.
The Sinhala owned, Sri Lanka Sunday Leader published in Colombo reported on 2 July 1995:
"Eleven emaciated bodies, evidently tortured were recovered in a decomposed state in Bolgoda Lake. The bodies discovered on May 13, June 1 and June 10, washed ashore at Indigihatotupoa in Panadura... All eleven dead men seemed to be around 30-35 years of age and several of them had been gagged, starved and tortured before death."
The Sinhala owned Newslanka published in London reported on 15 July:
"IGP Frank de Silva said four of the bodies found at Bolgoda and Alawwa have been identified as those of Tamils. 'It looks as if all the bodies are those Tamils' he said at a press briefing at the Tourist Board.
Time Magazine declared on 31 July 1995:
"In the capital city of Colombo, a video store clerk named Naresh Rajadurai, 27, is last sighted in the company of an army officer. A week later, Rajadurai's decomposed body is found 100 km north of Colombo with those of four other Tamil youths... corpses of young men, many with faces mutilated to prevent identification, have started showing up in lakes and field outside Colombo."
The British Refuge Council publication, Sri Lanka Monitor reported in May 1995:
"Over 1500 Tamils were arrested in Colombo this month... Human rights groups are increasingly concerned over arbitrary mass arrests amongst the city's 350,000 Tamil population after reports of financial extortion, robbery and assault..
Outside the capital there is tension and similar spate of arrests in Kandy, Anuradhapura, Kalutara, Matara and Badulla..."
Halt repatriation of Tamil asylum seekers
In this situation, we appeal to the Sub Commission, as a matter of urgency, to urge Governments to halt the planned repatriation of Tamil asylum seekers in Europe. - repatriation which will expose those who are sent back to the real and grave risk of arbitrary arrest, torture and possible death.
A Tamil cannot walk the streets of Colombo without fear of arbitary arrest and torture and Tamils returning from abroad will be specially at risk.
Sri Lanka waging war against the Tamil people
Though the Sri Lanka government has claimed that the war is against the LTTE and not against the Tamil people, the facts clearly demonstrate otherwise.
If as Sri Lanka says, it is not engaged in a war against the Tamil people,
- we fail to see why the government has punished the entirety of the Tamil people by imposing a blockade on the Tamil homeland in the North;
- we fail to see why the Sri Lanka army is using Tamil civilians as human shields to detect land mines in the East;
- we fail to see why its armed forces are engaged in indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of Tamil civilian population centres; and
- we fail to see why the tortured bodies of Tamils, with faces mutiliated to prevent identification, should be found floating in the environs of Colombo.
Apart from any thing else, the actions of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her government are inhuman breaches of international humanitarian law. Regretfully, it must be said, that as Executive head of the Sri Lanka armed forces, President Kumaratunga stands accountable for these crimes against humanity.
Sri Lanka government refuses to see the force of reason
The actions of President Chandrika Kumaratunga underline the view that her government 'like its predecessor, has no conception of the historical content of the Tamil struggle.'
The recent statement attributed to the US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns by the Snhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Island evince a similar ignorance.
"Tamil separatists are most to blame for the violence in Sri Lanka, where government forces have launched an offensive to crush the rebellion, a State Department spokesman said Thursday." (Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Island, 16 July 1995)
Both US State Department spokesman and President Chandrika Kumaratunga either fail or refuse to see the force of reason in that which 15 non governmental organisations told the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 49th Sessions in February 1993:
"We are of the view that any meaningful attempt to resolve the conflict should address its underlying causes and to recognise that the armed struggle of the Tamil people for self determination, arose as a response to decades of an ever widening and deepening oppression by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of an unitary Sri Lankan state."
During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commission have considered hundreds of statements on the grave situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka.
The record will show to any dispassionate observer that it was the terrorism of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people.
We believe that the constructive way forward is for all parties to admit this historical truth and to recognise that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam represent the determined will of the Tamil people to live free from the oppressive rule of a Sri Lankan state dominated by a permanent Sinhala majority.
Give Peace a Chance
We urge the Sub Commission to recall Sri Lanka to its responsibilities under international law and stop the continuing and threatened inhuman breaches of humanitarian law by its security and para military forces.
We urge the Sub Commission to call upon the Sri Lanka government to give peace a chance by recognising that the armed resistance of the Tamil people led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, against decades of oppression by Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka governments, was both just and lawful.
We commend for the consideration of the Sub Commission the words of Velupillai Pirabaharan, the leader of the LTTE in a BBC interview on 30 April 1995:
"Our doors for peace are still open. It is true that we are dissatisfied and disillusioned with the approach of the (Sri Lanka) Government. Yet we have not lost hope in the peace process. We are convinced that the Tamil national question can be resolved by peaceful means. It is the (Sri Lanka) Government which should take the initiatives to resume the peace process."
We urge the Sub Commission to call upon the Sri Lanka government to give peace a chance by seeking a negotiated political settlement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the true representatives of the Tamil people - a negotiated political settlement which recognises the existence of the Tamil homeland, and the right of the Tamil people to freely determine their political status.
The International Federation of Tamils appeals to the United Nations Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities:
- to condemn the genocidal onslaught launched by the Sri Lanka armed forces on the Tamil people and call upon the Sri Lanka government to end the economic blockade of the Tamil homeland;
- to recognise the armed resistance of the Tamil people as both just and lawful, to recognise the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as the true representatives of the Tamil people and to call upon the Sri Lanka government to negotiate in good faith with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to secure a just peace in the island;
- to call upon Governments, including Switzerland, to refrain from repatriating Tamil asylum seekers from Europe until a just resolution of the conflict in the island and conditions of normalcy have returned to the island.
Response of International Federation of Tamils
- to the Statement by Ambassador A.B.Goonetileke of Sri Lanka, 3 August 1995
The Statement made by Ambassador A.B.Goonetilieke under Agenda Item 6 shows that the Sri Lanka Government is intent on creating a legitimising frame for the genocidal attack that it launched on the Tamil people in June and July and which attack it threatens to intensify in the coming weeks.
Mr.Goonetilleke asserts that 'by its conduct since the initiation of the peace process, the LTTE has clearly manifested itself once again as an intransigent and unreliable party.' But what are the facts?
Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga's own appointee as Chairman of the Sri Lanka State Television, had this to say in a widely publicised article in the Sri Lanka Sunday Observer on 25 June 1995:
".. a hidden agenda seeped into the government's peace effort. Instead of niaking a genuine effort to cultivate confidence and trust with the Tiger leadership and exploring 'common ground', the government got side tracked by a different strategy: to try and isolate the Tiger leadership from the Tamil masses so that the military could corner and defeat them. The military establishment, together with most Sinhala intellectuals and left wing politicians, as well as some anti LTTE Tamil groups had been preaching this was for some time. This became the aim of the Presidential initiative too.
In other words the peace process began to resemble a tactical episode in the government's strategy to crush the Tigers. Indeed President Cliandrika even spoke about such an intention publicly... The LTTE soon became disillusioned and pulled away from negotiations suspecting ulterior motives."
The fact is that the peace process failed not because of so called LTTE intransigence, but because the Sri Lanka government used the peace process as a 'tactical episode in the government's strategy to crush the Tigers'.
"In order to develop the two provinces, a rehabilitation package estimated at Rs.39 billion was evolved. This package included reconstruction of roads, railway, power, irrigation canals, schools, hospitals and provision of a variety of other amenities. It was the intention of the Government to allow the people of the two provinces to directly benefit from the development package...Regrettably the LTTE refused to respond to the initiative of the Government to commence reconstruction and rehabilitation work..."
Again what are the facts? Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga's own appointee as Chairman of the Sri Lanka State Television speaks with the knowledge of an insider:
"Even the so called reconstruction projects, the President admitted, were aimed at hiring Tamil labour on a mass scale getting them directly on the government's payroll in the hope of changing their loyalties.
This perhaps explains why the government was not especially keen to accept the LTTE's proposal to establish an Independent Authority with representation from all sides to handle reconstruction work."
The Sri Lanka government's attempts to alienate the Liberation Tigers from the Tamil people sprung from its refusal to recognise that the LTTE was simply the expression of the determined will of the Tamil people to free themselves from decades of Sinhala rule.
'The Government entered into a Cessation of Hostilities with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on 8 January this year, in order to bring about an atmosphere conducive to the commencement of a political dialogue. Several Peace Committees were set up to monitor the terms of the agreement, headed by the representatives of the Governments of Canada, the Netherlands and Norway. However the LTTE categorically refused to nominate its representatives to these Peace Committees.'
That which Mr.Goonetileke does not say is that the Leader of the Liberation Tigers had called for a ceasefire as early as Septemberl994. In an interview with the BBC he declared:
"We are not imposing any conditions what ever for talks. We are only pointing out that for peace talks, a peaceful climate is necessary. Where there is no ceasefire, offensive operations may continue, may they not? Is there any meaning in continuing with war on one side, and at the sametime talking about peace? That is why we say that a ceasefire is necessary for pence talks."
The fact is that it was only after the Sri Lanka Navy's flag ship was sunk by the LTTE, that the Sri Lanka government eventually agreed - -and that too only to a cessation of hostilities. Mr. Goonetileke is economical with the truth when he fails to mention that Sri Lanka at all times refused to enter into a ceasefire agreement, rendering the proper functioning of peace committees difficult and almost impossible. Here again Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga's own appointee as Chairman of the Sri Lanka State Television speaks with the knowledge of an insider:
'...the government's behiviour gave the impression that it was quite deliberately ignoring the LTTE's constant request to arrange a formal cease fire in place of the fragile 'cessation of hostilities' so that clear terms of agreement in writing could be reached, particularly in relation to the controversial East."
"The Government's sincerity of purpose was witnessed in the bold initiatives taken to create necessary confidence in the peace process among the Tamil people.For example, in order to alleviate the hardship faced by the people of the North and the East, the embargo imposed for security reasons in respect of 70 items was progressively lifted, leaving only 8 items having direct military implications. The Government also took action to remove administrative obstacles relating to the transport of these items to the northern Province."
But what are the facts?
Mr.Goonetileke is again economical with the truth when he admits that the embargo was 'progressively' lifted but does give the reasons for the 'progressive' approach. He does not say, what the administrative obstacles were and the extent to which the 'action' taken by Government was successful in removing such obstacles.
The fact is that in many instances, the removal of the ban was not even gazetted and the Sri Lanka army at the check points did not allow the transport of even those items which were no longer banned. The 'sincerity' of the Sri Lanka government will appear from an interview with the BBC by Velupillai Pirabakarin, the Leader of the LTI'E on 27 April 1995:
"In so far as the day to day problems of the Tamil people are concerned the Government dragged its feet for more than six months. Oil these issues, there were four rounds of talks and more than forty letters exchanged. Furthermore, we gave a two weeks deadline and that was further extended to three more weeks. If there was a genuine will on the part of the Government it would have lifted the bans and proceeded with the implementation within 24 hours. I think that if the Government had been sincere there would not have been any delays or difficulties."
"...the Government had offered to begin substantive discussions with the LTTE for a negotiated political settlement. In fact the government sought to consult the LTTE first. Had they reciprocated positively, it was the government's intention to enter into discussions with the constituent parties of the Peoples Alliance and other political parties.'
Again what are the facts? Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga's own appointee as Chairman of the Sri Lanka State Television gives an insiders view:
"...we need only look at the calibre of the (Sri Lanka) peace delegates and their very occasional visits to Jaffna for a few hours talks. Not surprisingly doubts must have arisen (in the minds of the LTTE) about whether the government was only concerned with impressing the people... The fact that the government failed to ever! reveal its peace package in spite of numerous requests by Tamil groups raises doubts as to whether they had one flat went anywhere near Tamil demands....'
If the Sri Lanka government was negotiating in good faith with the LTTE, why did it delay for several months to place its proposals for a political settlement? Why did it not first enter into discussions with the constituent parties of its own Peoples Alliance, formulate proposals and present them at the negotiations with the LTTE?
Again, is it the suggestion that the constituent parties of the Peoples Alliance had differing views on the 'negotiated political settlement'? Is it the suggestion that such views were different froi-n the views of the People's Alliance Government? Further, since the LTI'E was negotiating with the People's Alliance Government and not the SLFP, what was the difficulty in sending a suitable delegation, representative of the Government, to the talks?
It is apparent that the so called 'negotiated political settlement' that the Government had in mind was one where no proposals are presented by the Government during the negotiations; and where the Government, after so called 'consultations' with the LTTE, then enters into discussions with its own Peoples Alliance and other political parties and imposes its own solution' to the conflict!
The bottom line was that the Sri Lanka government, as a government, was unwilling to sit and talk with the Liberation Tigers and work out a negotiated political settlement. Unsurprisingly, the LTTE refused to participate in this charade and the talks broke down.
The LTTE clearly had several grounds for concern. Here again, the ex Chairman of the Sri Lanka State Television speaks with an insider's knowledge:
"Alongside the peace process, the government did many other things which gfive the wrong signals to the LTTE. As chairman of the Rupavahini, I visited Jaffna during this period and had discussions with Anton Balasingbam and Thamil Chelvan about the possibility of setting up a television studio in Jaffna so that we could transmit regular programs about developments in the North to the people in the South, at the same time as doing programs from the south for the benefit of the Tamil masses in the North. The LTTE happily agreed. But when I brought the message back to the government, the idea was vehemently opposed.
Launching a new military recruitment campaign and ceremoniously opening up new settlements in Trincomalee did much to further undermine the trust that was imperative to any successful outcome of the talks.
Finally the unilateral opening of the Sangupitty Road - without consulting the LTTE - must have dashed any remaining hopes of establishing trust between the two sides.
If the government was seriously trying to establish trust and avoid misunderstandings there were many measures it could have taken. For example as part of a formal ceasefire, a video link between the LTTE headquarters and the Presidential Secretariat facilitating regular talks, would have been of enormous value. Also 'peace structures' involving both sides should have been installed, like in South Africa, to back actual negotiations."
'The LTTE's clear renunciation of the peace process was unequivocally condemned or deplored by many governments, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, the USA and by the European Union. In doing so the international community has clearly supported the pence initiative Of the government and condemned the resumption of violence by the LTTE"
Here, the response of Velupillai Pirabaharan, the Leader of the LTTE in a BBC interview on 27 April 1995 are apposite:
'We are fully aware that the international community is genuinely concerned about the Tamil issue. We are also aware that the world community wants the conflict resolved through peaceful means and a political settlement is reached. I think that accurate information with regard to the problems, difficulties and set backs that arose in the negotiating process has not reached the outside world. Some foreign countries have chosen to condemn the LTTE on the basis of the one sided story provided by the Government without recognising the legitimacy of our position. We deeply regret the haste in which the Governments have issued condemnations without studying the issue in depth."
During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commission have considered hundreds of statements on the grave situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka and whilst the views of governments which decry violence is understandable, the record will show to any dispassionate observer that it was the terrorism of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people.
There is a need to recognise the force of reason that led 15 non governmental organisations to tell the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 49th Sessions in February 1993:
'We are of the view that any meaningful attempt to resolve the conflict should address its underlying causes and to recognise that the armed struggle of the Tamil people for self determination, arose As ,t response to decades of an ever widening and deepening oppression by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of an unitary Sri Lankan state."
Written statement of International Educational Development on the situation in Sri Lanka
under Agenda Item 6
1. International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project fervently hoped that the election of the Peoples' Alliance government in August 1994 and the later election of the new president of Sri Lanka would result in a viable peace process to end the 40 year oppression of the Tamil people and their justifiable armed resistance. We applauded the Peoples' Alliance platform, clearly supported by the majority of the Sinhala people of Sri Lanka, in which a commitment to the peace process was fundamental. During her successful campaign candidate Chandrika Kumaratunga proclaimed that her first priority was to restore peace. Following her election, a Sinhala from Sri Lanka and a long-time friend of our organization hand-delivered a letter from our UN chief representative to President Kumaratunga in support of the peace process.
2. Our hopes were weakened by a progressive retreat from the peace process by President Kumaratunga and her government shortly after proclaiming in a BBC interview "most armies prefer war to peace --not the soldiers at the base but those in Colombo at the top. We hope and we believe that we have better control of our armies." It became apparent that her government did not have full control over the Sri Lankan armed forces. For example, as the peace talks continued, the promised removal of the ban on essential goods into the Tamil area failed to be listed in the gazette; the Sri Lankan government procrastinated and thwarted the flow of essential goods that had ostensibly been removed from the banned list; the promised electrical supplies never arrived; the Sri Lankan Navy imposed restrictions on food-fishing in spite of an announced relaxation of the former ban; the Poonakari Camp, used by the Sri Lankan Army to restrict the movement of Tamil civilians, continued to operate; new army camps were established in the East; new settlements of Sinhala people were opened in the East.
3. More revealing of the government's retreat from a peace process was the choice of the President's delegates to meet with LTTE leaders. Said one political columnist in the Sunday Leader (Colombo, May 21, 1995):
"The LTTE is known to have said that the President had two senior Ministers beside her in her discussion with Tamil groups who were voting with her in Parliament, she sent only as delegates to negotiate an end to a war that has cost 30,000 lives her architect, her banker and her clerk. The only person she forgot to send was her cook."
Question of the caliber of delegates was also raised by opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, who in a speech in Parliament on May 12, 1995 (cited in The Island, Colombo, May 13, 1995) acknowledged that the delegations to the peace talks became noticeably less experienced. According to Wickremasinghe, there were even competing delegations in Jaffna at one time. He concludes:
"The important question is, why was the Cabinet left out of this process? The Cabinet was left in the dark and the peace process was handled by the Kitchen Cabinet."
4. A climate of increasing apprehension by the Tamil people led to out and out disillusionment when several offers of the LTTE leadership for a federal-type political structure were met with silence from the Sri Lankan government. With no proposal on the table from the government and with failure to carry out main components of the cessation of hostilities agreement, the LTTE leadership issued notice in mid-March that without urgent action to address some of these problem areas, the LTTE would consider the cessation of hostilities to have expired. The LTTE gave a two-week deadline, later extended by another three weeks. Because there was still no effective response from the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE considered the cessation of hostilities agreement expired as of April 19. Armed conflict between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE and Tamil people commenced when the Sea Tigers sank two naval gunboats in Trincomalee harbour.
5. Since the commencement of hostilities, Tamil civilians have been the main target of military operations by the Sri Lankan forces. For example, between May 30 and June 14, the bodies of twelve Tamil youths were found with their hands tied behind their back and sign of starvation and suffocation in water. Throughout the rest of those two months, a number of Tamil young men and women were found killed and with obvious signs of torture. The Rev. Fr. Jesuthasan was shot in the Eastern province. A number of fisherman have either been killed or disappeared. A large number of Tamil youth have been taken into custody. A reporter for The Guardian (London) was an witness to the summary execution of three Tamil men and the escape of a fourth (a 17 - year old student) at Jeyanthipuram camp. In her report of June 3, she stated that the police also fired into Holy Family convent and had been carrying out a concerted campaign of terror in the area.
6. In a 48 hour period beginning July 9, as part of a military operation called "Operation Leap Forward", the Sri Lankan forces:
(1) bombed St. Peter's Church in Navali killing more than 130 mostly women and children seeking shelter;
(2) bombed the Manipay Hospital, injuring patients and forcing the relocation of many other patients;
(3) carried out other indiscriminate military operations from army camps, jet bombers and naval vessels in heavily populated areas in the north.
Regarding the bombing of St. Peter's Church, Pope John Paul II said
"I share the grief of those who lost their loved ones in the bombing of the church and school of Navali. . . Already in the past I have urged all sides to choose the path of dialogue to further avoid further useless trials for that dear country."
As a further element to this atrocity, the government of Sri Lanka had told people to take shelter in churches and schools before the attack.
7. Since the renewal of hostilities and as a direct result of the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, there are now more that 350,000 newly displaced people in dire need of means of subsistence and international protection. Jaffna hospital is now attempting to assist more than 3000 civilians wounded in repeated bombing attacks on civilian areas. In a July 12, 1995 letter to President Kumaratunga, the Honorable Jean Augustine, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada stated:
"It was with dismay, horror and sadness I read of the bombing over the Jaffna peninsula, with over 210 civilians killed, more than 250 grievously injured and with over a quarter of a million persons displaced. Such indiscriminate killings and hostilities cannot be tolerated by people who care for peace in our world. Do stop the suffering and bloodshed. The world community is shocked by this barbarity."
8. International Educational Development is also shocked by this barbarity and joins Mr. Augustine in affirming that the world cannot tolerate this. We urge the Sub-Commission to condemn Sri Lanka for these clear violations of the Geneva Conventions. We also request the Sub-Commission to call on all parties to the conflict to respect fully all provisions of humanitarian law applicable to this conflict. Finally, we urge the Sub-Commission to encourage peaceful resolution to this conflict in a process involving the parties to the conflict -- the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. United Nations action in El Salvador is a useful model for assisting in the resolution of the conflict in Sri Lanka. The Sub-Commission could also call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights or Secretary-General to use "good offices" with an aim to renewing the peace process, including the achievement of a genuine cease-fire.