Tamil op-ed piece in mainstream Australian newspaper

April 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

We believe this to be the first opinion editorial piece by any Australian Tamil to have been published in Australian mainstream print media.

Sam Pari
April 28, 2011

Two years ago, a war without witness was executed by the state against the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka. 

In September 2008, after ordering all United Nations personnel, non-government organisations and media out of the Vanni region, the Sri Lankan government embarked on a vicious military campaign. While it informed the world it was fighting the Tamil Tiger rebels and was following a ”zero civilian casualty” policy, photographs, video footage and phone conversations with our relatives in the war zone told us a different story.

We watched in horror as images of injured babies, maimed pregnant women and rows of dead civilians leaked out. Hospitals were bombed. Refugee camps were shelled. Surrendering civilians were executed. Even the International Committee of the Red Cross was blocked from saving the injured.
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As members of the Tamil diaspora took to the streets, campaigning for the international community to act to stop the bloodshed, the world did nothing. More than 100,000 Tamils rallied around the world, yet our cries fell on the bureaucrats’ deaf ears. Kevin Rudd, then the prime minister, preferred ”soft diplomacy” with Sri Lanka, in contrast to his stand on Burma, Zimbabwe and Libya.

We slowly realised the UN was well aware of the high civilian casualties. Leaked satellite images revealed the UN knew of the Sri Lankan Air Force’s targeted bombing and shelling of civilian locations.

Following his resignation, the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss revealed the civilian death toll could be up to 40,000, while “significant others have said that the figure may well be far higher”. Why would the world allow civilians to be killed in such a gruesome manner?

During the war, China and Russia prevented the war in Sri Lanka being discussed at the UN Security Council. Both countries are allies of Sri Lanka, China having invested heavily in it.

UN officials are said to have told Vijay Nambiar – whom the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed as his chief of staff – that the final death toll could exceed 20,000, but Nambiar urged his staff not to “rock the boat” by criticising the Sri Lankan government.

Witness reports later revealed senior UN officials, including Nambiar, and senior Sri Lankan officials, including the Defence Secretary (and brother of the President), Gotabaya Rajapaksa, were involved in the surrendering of Tamil Tiger combatants, who were later executed. After waiting two years for an independent inquiry into this incident, Tamil rights groups have submitted their own complaint to the International Criminal Court.

When the war came to a bloody end on May 18, 2009, Sri Lankan government puppets were quick to continue the propaganda, claiming all was well in Sri Lanka, encouraging Australian tourists while discouraging Australia from accepting Tamil refugees.

The reality was very different. Hundreds of thousands were held in military-run internment camps, disappearances were rife and rape and torture occurred. There was a reason the number of Tamil refugees arriving by boats in Australia had suddenly sky-rocketed.

The unrelenting campaigning by the Tamil diaspora and human rights groups finally forced Ban to establish a panel of experts last year to assess the mounting allegations of war crimes. Sri Lanka was quick to condemn this decision and banned the panel from visiting the island.

The panel’s final report, submitted to Ban almost a fortnight ago, has finally been published. The panel has found allegations of war crimes to be credible and has admitted the UN failed to act to protect civilians, despite knowing about the high civilian casualty rate. The panel has also recommended an international independent inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Today tens of thousands of Tamils are missing. Up to 14,000 Tamils, including 500 children, have been held for the past two years in secret prisons; no one knows if they are alive. The Tamil homeland in the north is under military occupation and forced resettlement of Sinhalese families is taking place, changing the demography of the region.

After Rwanda the world said “never again”, but in early 2009, what happened to the Tamils was far worse. Not only did the UN fail to act to stop the persecution of Tamil civilians – it was complicit.

Dr Sam Pari is a spokeswoman for the Australian Tamil Congress.

Australian Tamil Congress talking about UN Report in media

April 27, 2011 Comments Off on Australian Tamil Congress talking about UN Report in media

The Australian – UN tells of Sri Lankan carnage

THE UN has painted an apocalyptic picture of the last weeks and months of the Sri Lankan civil war.

A UN report, released yesterday, lays the blame for the deaths of as many as 40,000 civilians largely with the government and the military.

A panel commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an independent war crimes investigation into the actions of the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels, after finding evidence of war crimes on both sides.

Mr Ban released the report after a week of leaks about the contents believed to have come from the Sri Lankan government.

But he ruled out launching an inquiry without Sri Lankan government co-operation — which it almost certainly will not give — or a demand from UN member states or a body such as the UN Human Rights Council.

Tamils in Australia and human rights groups say they’ve been vindicated by a United Nations report into the Sri Lankan government’s final assault on the Tamil Tigers in 2009.
They’ve long been calling for an international war crimes investigation into the conflict and now the UN is also. The UN report found that indiscriminate shelling by the Sri Lankan government killed most of the tens of thousands of civilians who died in the last months of the 25-year civil war. It also accused the Tamil Tigers of using civilians as human shields.


An Australian Tamil community group has urged the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to join calls for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

SBS TV News – Sri Lankan war crimes probe

UN report on the offensive between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil separatists calls for an investigation
There has been mixed reaction in Australia to a United Nations report that painted a brutal picture of the final months of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009.
The report accuses Tamil Tiger rebels of using people as human shields, and government forces of killing tens of thousands of civilians through indiscriminate shelling.
PART 1 – A United Nations report on Sri Lanka’s recent civil war found credible evidence of war crimes by both government and Tamil Tiger forces.
PART 2 -Gordon Weiss was spokesman for the United Nation’s humanitarian mission in Sri Lanka during the civil war.

Will Ban Ki-Moon fail humanity again?

April 26, 2011 Comments Off on Will Ban Ki-Moon fail humanity again?

Reuters –  UN chief says can’t order probe into Sri Lanka war

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he lacks the authority to personally order a probe into the mass killings of civilians in the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, as a report recommended on Monday.

A human rights group disagreed with Ban’s description of his limited powers, saying he has the authority to push ahead.

A panel appointed by Ban said in the report on the 2008-2009 fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka that it found evidence that the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were guilty of war crimes and recommended that those crimes be investigated and suspects prosecuted.

It urged him to proceed to establish “an independent international mechanism” to investigate the quarter-century war’s final stages.

But Ban said that he could not on his own follow the recommendation of his advisory panel in the more than 200-page report, which has been rejected as biased and fraudulent by the Sri Lankan government. (More)

UN issues war crimes report on Sri Lanka

April 26, 2011 Comments Off on UN issues war crimes report on Sri Lanka

BBC – UN issues report on Sri Lanka war

AlJazeera –  UN: Sri Lanka mass deaths may be ‘war crimes’

AFP – US lawmaker urges Sri Lanka to act after report

ATC – Aust should call for war crimes investigation in SL

April 26, 2011 Comments Off on ATC – Aust should call for war crimes investigation in SL

ATC –  Australian Tamils Urge PM to Call for Independent International Inquiry into War Crimes in Sri Lanka

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on 26 April 2011 – www.australiantamilcongress.com

The Australian Tamil Congress is calling on the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to openly call for an independent international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, after a report on the issue submitted to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by a UN Expert Advisory Panel was officially released today.

The Expert Panel found allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka to be credible and admits that the UN had failed to act to protect Tamil civilians despite having knowledge of the high civilian casualty rate. The panel also recommended an international independent inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka, stating Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s own internal inquiry, the ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’, was “deeply flawed” and failed to “satisfy key international standards”.

Sri Lanka was quick to denounce the findings of the report with President openly calling for mass protests against the UN. Since the panel’s establishment in 2010, Sri Lanka has repeatedly refused visas to the Expert Panel, blocking their visit to the island and has to date been defiant against any international independent inquiry into war crimes in the island.

“The international community, including Australia, failed to protect Tamil civilians who were victims of war crimes,” said Dr Sam Pari, spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress. “It is now time for Australia to step away from the soft diplomacy it practices with Sri Lanka and openly call for an international independent inquiry into war crimes that were committed in the island, with trade sanctions and travel bans for government officials being imposed if Sri Lanka fails to follow,” she added.

Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapakse will be visiting Perth later this year to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Media contact: Dr. Sam Pari, Australian Tamil Congress – 0433 428 967

Sunday Leader interview with Father Emmanuel

April 25, 2011 Comments Off on Sunday Leader interview with Father Emmanuel

Sunday Leader (24/04) – ‘All Sides Must Be Investigated For Real Reconciliation To Begin’

The Sunday Leader’s Faraz Shauketaly spoke to Head of the Global Tamil Forum, Father Emmanuel, asking him to comment on the UN Advisory Panel Report. Excerpts:

Q:  What is your reaction to the UN Advisory Panel’s report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon?
We have seen a leaked report. We are at the first stage. It is an opportunity to find out the truth and to start a process of true reconciliation. The Report advises that an enquiry be held to hold both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tigers accountable. There has been a lot of emotional reaction from both sides – the Sri Lanka government and the Tamils. We Tamils of course welcome the report as being an objective one. It is an attempt to find out and bring out the truth so that justice can be done and a true reconciliation process can begin. (More)

More on Aust's cooperation with Sri Lanka

April 25, 2011 Comments Off on More on Aust's cooperation with Sri Lanka

ABC (22/04) – Ex-detainees claim AFP officer witnessed torture

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) has expressed concern over the conduct of security forces working in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in Sri Lanka.

Two former Christmas Island detainees arrested by Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after they were deported from Australia in 2009 claim to have been abused by members of the unit in the presence of an AFP officer.

Their lawyer, Lakshan Dias, says CID officers beat the men with wooden planks and threatened to rape their family members. (More)

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