Australia's failure to pressure SL

September 30, 2009 Comments Off on Australia's failure to pressure SL

Radio Australia

ABC Asia Pacific : Australia urged to pressure Sri Lanka on displaced Tamils

“The Australian government by being muted is playing the Sri Lankan government’s game.” – Hon. John Dowd AO QC

Updated Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:56pm AEST

Four months on from the crushing defeat of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, and nearly 300,000 people displaced in the last bitter months of the civil war are still detained in refugee camps. At the weekend, even as Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka told the UN he’s making resettling the refugees a priority, government troops fired on a group of civilians trying to escape one of the camps, wounding two people.

John Dowd QC is president of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia, and also heads ActionAid Australia. He has accused the Australian government of “enormous conceit” in its failure to pressure Sri Lanka into getting the civilians home.

Presenter: Michael Cavanagh
Speaker: John Dowd QC, president, International Commission of Jurists Australia

Listen : Windows Media
Read transcript here.

1000 people have died in the camps

September 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

Crikey : Sri Lanka and its Manik approach to human rights

Overland editor Jeff Sparrow writes:

In what’s surely one of the more remarkable fact-finding missions in recent years, Sri Lanka’s attorney-general Mohan Peiris is heading to Washington for meetings with the US defence establishment. His goal? Learning to emulate the US’ treatment of captured Islamic militants!

Now, there’s not too many contexts in which anyone would point to Guantanamo Bay and say, gosh, we’d like one of those. Then again, there’s not too many nations that currently keep a quarter of a million people detained indefinitely in camps.

In Sri Lanka, an appalling human rights tragedy continues to play out. After the wake of the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers (an organisation undoubtedly responsible for its own atrocities), 250,000 Tamils have been herded into detention. Here’s how the Guardian describes one such internment facility:

“The camp, say former inhabitants, is packed, with two or three families sharing a tent or tin shack. There are complaints of stinking, overflowing toilets, water shortages and inadequate healthcare. Journalists are rarely given access and those inside Manik Farm are not allowed to cross its fortified perimeter.”

Click here to read article

Another eyewitness account to the horrors of the last days

September 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

Source: Articles published in a Tamil bi-weekly Nakkheeran (17/8/09, 20/8/09 and 24/8/09) by Father Jagat Casper from excerpts of a letter sent to him by Sivaruben

The genocide of Ceylon Tamils, was facilitated by India providing military assistance (including the Indira Radar and satellite intelligence), China contributing rockets and chemical weapons, Russia supplying tanks, cannon and armoured vehicles as well as on-field consultations and Pakistan providing missiles and weaponry worth several millions of Rupees. With the military force of all these countries against us, how could the armed Tamils forces alone resist this assault?

This is how the final assault of 17 May 2009 took place in front of our own eyes. We weren’t sure if we could believe what we were seeing was real. Missiles were falling amongst us coming from all directions.  Chemical weapons were also being fired at us from unknown locations. There was also continuous gun fire. I got out of the bunker cautiously, when there was a little pause in the shelling. The devastation and destruction of Mullivaaikkal unfolded in front of my own eyes.

My kith and kin whom I saw before I ran and hid under the bunker were later discovered to be in pieces in a wilderness of corpses. I could not distinguish between those who were young and old. Body parts covered the entire area. A mother was in tears, screaming out aloud holding on to a headless body that appeared to be her child. “My lord, why does it have to be us! I’m unable to see my son’s face! Demon Rajapakse why don’t you come and take me as well!” she screamed.  Following this, a bullet, which was fired, struck her head spraying its contents, making a mess of it. She fell to the ground, kissing the Mother Eelam.

Click here to read article

Canadian Tamil Congress on AlJazeera

September 30, 2009 Comments Off on Canadian Tamil Congress on AlJazeera

Dug up from the archives

UN : Rapid refugee resettlement a must

September 30, 2009 Comments Off on UN : Rapid refugee resettlement a must

AFP : UN ratchets up criticism of Sri Lankan camps
The United Nations on Tuesday issued its strongest criticism yet of Sri Lanka over its continued internment of 250,000 people who fled fighting in the final stages of the island’s separatist war.

Walter Kaelin, a representative of the United Nations secretary-general, said civilians held in tightly-guarded camps should be granted freedom to ensure that the island complied with its international obligations.

“Immediate and substantial progress in restoring freedom of movement for the displaced is an imperative if Sri Lanka is to respect the rights of its citizens and comply with its commitments and obligations under international law,” he said in a statement received here.

He criticised the slow screening of people in the camps for suspected Tamil Tiger rebels and called for unhindered humanitarian access to the camps by international and local aid workers.

Restoring freedom to the displaced “is becoming a matter of urgency, and I remain very concerned about the very slow pace of releases”, Kaelin said, two days after wrapping up a visit to camps in the island’s north.

Kaelin, UN representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said a clash over the weekend between troops and people interred in a camp underscored the growing tensions and human rights abuses.

The incident “that resulted in injuries to two persons raises serious human rights issues”, he said.

Sri Lanka has resisted repeated calls to free the civilians saying that the authorities need more time to screen the them and weed out suspected Tamil rebels.

The UN has said that up to 7,000 civilians may have perished in the first four months of the year while many more were wounded. Sri Lanka has denied targeting civilians and blamed Tigers for using civilians as a human shield.

Tiger rebels were defeated in May when the military wiped out their leadership. The offensive sparked international condemnation of the government’s handling of the final stages of the war.

The UN announced earlier this month that Sri Lanka’s government was not making sufficient progress in implementing a promise to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in May to resettle the refugees within six months.

Reuters : Rapid refugee resettlement a must for Sri Lanka-UN

BBC : UN in Tamil ‘bitterness’ warning
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has warned that Sri Lanka risks creating “bitterness” if it fails to rapidly resettle Tamil refugees.</strong

An Aussie Doctor's experience in the Vanni

September 29, 2009 § 1 Comment

Pulled up from the archives of the Medical Journal of Australia –

Teaching Tamil Tigers

“…Driving north from Colombo to Jaffna, I was struck by the poverty on the Tamil side of the armed border, the lack of facilities in the hospital in Kilinochchi (the administrative centre of the “Tamil” land) and the dilapidation of the tertiary hospital in Jaffna. Only the crowds in the corridors and the patients on the floors obscured the filth on the walls and passageways. Nothing obscured the suffering of apparently half-dead people being carried on bare metal stretchers at perilous angles up and down the stairs, buffeted in the surge. I was struck by the whites of their fingers as they clung to the metal. Nothing prevented the recycling of dengue through unscreened windows from sullage that pooled from broken pipes alongside the wards. One piddling tap leaned vainly against cross-infection in the crowded children’s barn. Why was this hospital so different to the many I had visited in the Sinhalese areas? I later learned of economic sanctions and underfunding by Colombo…”

Read full article here.

From a civilian in the former conflict zone

September 29, 2009 § 3 Comments

Dear Ban Ki Moon, 

I write this as a plea to the United Nations. This is a voice for the voiceless people who are being held in the internment camps in Northern Sri Lanka. I was one of the many people who was in the so-called “Safe Zone” as the Sri Lanka Military advanced against us, who believed and hoped that the United Nations would come to protect us during the final stages of the war. Many of those are now dead. Some are still alive and asking for your support. I am one of the lucky ones to be alive. 
 
I was one of those who went tent by tent in the final few square kilometres of the safety zone to get letters signed by families affected in the shelling. I explained to them that these will be sent to the United Nations, who will help them if it gets to the United Nations before their Security Council meeting on the 29th of April. April 29th was one of the dates that the people waited for, holding on to their life with the hope that some change will occur in their lives. It didn’t and the death continued. 
 
To be frank, I risked my life to get those letters signed for you. So did many other volunteers who did the same. We went tent by tent, explaining to them that we are sending letters to the United Nations. We gave them hope that there is a world body to represent the voiceless. Our hope was all wasted. Their hope was all wasted. If you don’t act now, you will never be forgiven. A small child, as young as 2 years old, will remember what happened and and hate the international community for years to come. You can be assured.
 
As the chaos hit its peak, I decided to go and help out at the hospital. It was better to die doing something helpful to others than die for nothing. There wasn’t a day when a child will be carried to the hospital by the child’s relative. They would cry and beg for the child to be treated and given life but it would be too late by then. The child was already dead. This was a daily occurrence at the hospital. Were these children “terrorists”, to be subject to such a horrific fate, only because they were born Tamil in Sri Lanka? 
 
Click here to read letter

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