March 16, 2010 Comments Off on ATC in the media
ABC Radio Australia Connect Asia – Sri Lanka’s Tamils drops demand for separate state
March 16, 2010 11:51:41
In Sri Lanka, the political party closest to the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels has dropped its demand for a separate state. The Tamil National Alliance or TNA was generally seen as a proxy for the now-defeated Tamil Tiger separatists. But 10 months after the rebels’ defeat, the TNA is changing its outlook saying it wants power-sharing with a federal structure. The TNA’s also called for two Tamil majority provinces to be merged back into one with significant devolution of powers on issues like land and taxes.
Presenter: David Chen
Speakers: Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, Sri Lanka’s Centre for Policy Alternatives; Dr Sam Pari, Australian Tamil Congress
March 14, 2010 Comments Off on ATC in the media
ABC Radio Australia PM – UN Refugee Agency may change some protection guidelines
The United Nations Refugee Agency is looking at changing its international protection guidelines for Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers. The changes would pave the way for Australia to send many more of the detainees on Christmas Island back to where they started. The Tamil Association is urging against any change to the guidelines, saying it’s no safer for Tamils in Sri Lanka. From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.
“There is still 100- to 150,000 Tamils being held in military run camps in the north and the fact that there’s about another 10- to 15,000 Tamils being held in undisclosed areas where there are allegations of rape and torture that have been continuing for more than a year. I do not believe that the guidelines should be relaxed. Sri Lanka is still a very dangerous country for Tamil civilians regardless of whether they’re from the north, whether they’re from the east or anywhere on the island.” – Dr Sam Pari, National Spokesperson, Australian Tamil Congress
January 26, 2010 Comments Off on ATC in the media
Thousands of Tamils in the north of the country will be voting for the first time in many years.
Ironically, the minority Tamils – who’ve suffered discrimination under successive governments – may decide the outcome, if the majority Singhalese vote is split. While both incumbent President Rajapakse and the former military chief General Fonseka actively courted the Tamil vote during campaigning, many observers say it remains to be seen if the lot of the Tamil minority will improve in Sri Lanka.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speakers: Sisira Jayasuriya, Singhalese-born Professor of Economics at LaTrobe University in Melbourne; Dr Sam Pari, Sydney-based spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress
- Listen Windows Media
PARI: I think the fact that the two main candidates, one of whom was a commander-in-chief who ordered the war against the Tamil people, and the other, the former head of the military who executed that order, the fact that it’s these two individuals who are the main candidates running for presidency, I think that is of deep concern to the Tamil population. Both these gentlemen have given speeches and have said many things that are staunchly nationalistic and very pro-Sinhalese and quite inconsiderate of the Tamil population. For the Tamil people, the absence of war does not equal peace. The history of Sri Lanka has shown several pacts, several agreements made between Tamil leaders and the Singhalese president that have only later been abrogated by the Sri Lankan government. It’s been more than six months since the end of the war and we still see about 150-thousand Tamils being interned in camps. There are about ten to 12-thousand young Tamils who are still arrested, jailed and kept in undisclosed areas. There are allegations of rape, of torture, of abductions still continuing, people are disappearing. I don’t believe that the Tamil people really are much more free today as compared to say a year ago. More
December 13, 2009 Comments Off on What "freedom of movement"?
ABC Radio Australia – Displaced Sri Lankan Tamils ‘still denied freedom of movement’
Sri Lanka says it won’t bring charges against 11,000 former Tamil Tigers rebels it says were found among displaced civilians in the country’s refugee camps.
Colombo says many former rebels were young people coerced into fighting, and that they are being rehabilitated. But 200 former rebels are under arrest and will be prosecuted. The government also says it is on track to return civilians to their homes in the island’s north-east by the end of January. Colombo claims that the 130,000 people waiting to be resettled enjoy complete freedom of movement and can leave at any time, but civilians themselves dispute those claims.
November 3, 2009 Comments Off on No mention of the camps by Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joins ‘The 7.30 Report’, ABC, 2 November 09
On asylum seekers, Kevin Rudd speaking with Kerry, says:
“… Remember, that what we’re facing with – faced with in Sri Lanka is 260,000 people displaced because of a civil war, hundreds of thousands seeking to return to the part of Sri Lanka they used to live in. The matters I discussed with their President this afternoon and the particular needs which exist within that country for housing. But on top of that, if you’re dealing with these challenges…”
October 27, 2009 Comments Off on Today's news
Brisbane Times – PM won’t say if children face razor wire
Sydney Morning Herald – It’s time to exorcise the spectre of the Tampa
AND IN VANCOUVER
The Vancouver Sun – Sri Lankan asylum-seekers plead for release
Handcuffed and shackled in leg chains, more Sri Lankan asylum-seekers were back before immigration officials in Vancouver on Monday, pleading for release from detention.
But proving their identities continued to be a significant impediment for most of the men, who were among a group of 76 ethnic Tamils apprehended on a mysterious ship off Vancouver Island earlier this month.
Several of the men arrived with no authentic documents to prove who they are. More
September 19, 2009 Comments Off on Lakhdar Brahimi and Edward Mortimer on Sri Lanka
The Globe and Mail – Let’s help Sri Lanka win the peace
Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail
Colombo’s friends expect a return to democratic tradition – and freedom for detained Tamils
It is now nearly four months since Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared the country “liberated” from the Tamil Tiger rebels after a 26-year war. He said then that he wanted to settle most of the displaced Tamil civilians within 180 days but, today, with 60 days to go, nearly 280,000 are still being – in the words of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – “effectively detained under conditions of internment.”
Humanitarian agencies’ access to these camps remains restricted, the high commissioner said, “and the mandates of relief agencies are increasingly coming under threat.” UN staff have even been attacked. One person who was able to visit the camps was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said, “I have travelled round the world and visited similar places, but these are by far the most appalling scenes I have seen.”
In mid-August, these camps were flooded by downpours that, according to The New York Times, “sent rivers of muck cascading between tightly packed rows of flimsy shelters, overflowed latrines and sent hundreds of families scurrying for higher ground.” When the full monsoon comes in a few weeks, no one knows how many will die from waterborne diseases, including cholera and typhoid.
Moreover, there is no public list of those being held in the camps, and many families do not know whether their loved ones are alive or dead.
The brutal methods used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the conflict are beyond dispute. But while the war was going on, the government claimed to draw a distinction between Tamil Tiger fighters and the law-abiding Tamil population, whose genuine political grievances it would address once the “terrorists” had been defeated.
So far, nothing like that has happened. Although the government has screened out those it believes were Tamil Tiger cadres and sent them to separate camps (where there is no international presence at all), it repeatedly extends its own deadline for releasing the civilians who are still in the main camps.
People who question this inside Sri Lanka are accused of being traitors in the pay of “the LTTE diaspora,” while outsiders are accused of using humanitarian concerns as an excuse for neo-imperialist intervention. Sri Lankan journalists who criticized the government have been arrested, beaten, jailed and, in some cases, murdered. Some foreign journalists and UN officials have been kicked out; Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are not allowed in.
In the last weeks of fighting, an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed. Government forces are accused of shelling Tamil civilians; the Tamil Tigers are accused of using civilians as human shields, forcibly recruiting them and shooting those who tried to flee. There are rumours of mass graves and television reports of extra-judicial killing, but no independent observer has been allowed into the war zones to investigate.
Friends of Sri Lanka the world over do not understand why Mr. Rajapaksa chose Myanmar as the first country to visit after winning the “war on terror.” They were concerned to read, on the government’s own website, that one reason for this choice was that “the [Myanmar] generals are increasingly finding it difficult to contain insurgent groups in the country’s northern frontier and are willing to learn some fresh lessons from President Mahindra Rajapaksa on how to defeat the enemy.”
That is not what the international community in general, and Commonwealth friends such as Canada in particular, wish to learn from Sri Lanka. Rather, they are expecting the country to be faithful to its democratic tradition and act on Mr. Rajapaksa’s promises that the rights of minorities will be respected, that the displaced will be helped to return home and that prisoners will be treated humanely.
Sadly, the government’s willingness to ignore universal principles of human rights and humanitarian law (which Sri Lanka agreed to uphold when it signed and ratified many treaties and conventions) has met with very little international resistance. Even the United States, which has urged the rapid release of all civilians and deplored the government’s slow timetable on political reform, is encouraging U.S. investors to “make Sri Lanka your next business stop.”
The Sri Lankan government has won the war. It must now win the peace, and the world, including Canada, must help.
“Tough friends” must now say clearly that further economic and political support will depend on the following conditions being fulfilled:
1. The United Nations, the Red Cross and voluntary agencies must be given full and unhindered access to care for and protect civilians detained in Sri Lankan camps, then help them return to wherever in their country they choose to live.
2. A list of all those still alive and in custody should be published, so families can stop searching for loved ones who are dead.
3. Any who continue to be detained as alleged Tamil Tiger combatants must be treated in accordance with the provisions of international law, and urgently given access to legal representation.
4. Accountability processes must be established to ensure that international aid is not diverted to purposes other than those for which it was given.
5. The Sri Lankan government should invite regional and international specialists in conflict reconciliation to help rebuild lives and communities.
6. Sri Lanka should request or accept a full UN investigation into war crimes committed by all parties during the 26-year civil war.
Lakhdar Brahimi is a former UN special envoy for Afghanistan and Iraq and a former foreign minister of Algeria. Edward Mortimer is senior vice-president of the Salzburg Global Seminar; he served as chief speechwriter for UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. Both are members of the Advisory Council of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice.