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‘Sri Lanka as a friendly country is a thing of the past’

Dr. V Maitreyan| 02 Mar 2013, Vol 4 Issue 9

Last year on 14th March, 2012, on the eve of the voting on US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka in UNHRC in Geneva, the Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna made a suo moto statement in Rajya Sabha. One year has passed. The External Affairs Minister has changed.

Instead of SM Krishna, we have now Salman Khurshid. But nothing has changed in Sri Lanka. In fact it has gone from bad to worse.

Sri Lanka’s army and police continue to terrorize innocent Tamils (Photos in the article were taken in Sri Lanka couple of years ago)

On 14th March, 2012, SM Krishna assured the House that the objectives of the UPA Government was to achieve a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.

In each of these objectives- equality, dignity, justice and self-respect, the UPA Government has failed to achieve any result. This is because the UPA Government refuses to accept the root cause for the ethnic conflict, and its blind folded and misplaced trust on the Sri Lankan president.

Unlike the Indian Constitution which guarantees equality to all its citizens, the Sri Lankan Constitution positively discriminates against the minority Tamil population of Sri Lanka. This is at the heart of the decades-old ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

The LITE was not the cause but the consequence of oppression and repeated denial of justice for the Tamils by the successive Governments in Sri Lanka.

The roots of brutal civil war lie in the complete disregard for political democracy by the Sinhala majority. This resulted in the decades of political violence, oppression and cultural genocide of Tamils.

The Tamils struggle for justice has come around a full circle with the violent and undemocratic oppression of the non-violent protests during the period 1948-1983 and the end of an armed struggle in May 2009. This has caused enormous sufferings of Tamils- forced migrations, humiliation and rape of women, killing of children, disappearances, deaths, war crimes and genocide.

In the final phases of the Ealam War in May 2009, more than 40,000 innocent civilians were killed in the last few days of the war itself.

When the AlADMK government under the leadership of Dr. Puratchi Thalaivi (Jayalalithaa) assumed power in Tamil Nadu in May 2011 the very first resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly was a unanimous resolution, urging the Government of India to take the issue of war crimes with the United Nations and to declare those found guilty of war crimes against Eelam Tamils as war criminals and to initiate action by working together with other nations for imposition of economic embargo on the Sri Lankan Government.

The UPA Government did not even bother to respect the sentiments behind the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution.

Yielding to the massive outcry and seething anger across Tamil Nadu about the genocide, the UPA Government was forced to support the US sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC in Geneva in March 2012.

Even then India bailed out Sri Lanka by diluting the impact of the resolution and softening its tone and contents. The March 2012 resolution was about the findings and implementation of Lessons Learnt Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Yet the resolution remains far from being addressed.

The sufferings of the Tamils continue without any respite even after May 2009, with the Sri Lankan Government enforcing cultural genocide in the North and East - on the one hand with the growing presence of military and Sinhala settlements, and on the other hand with dislocation and destruction of historical and archeological traces of Socio-Cultural evidences of Tamil identity in the region.

The Sri Lankan Government has simply accelerated and enhanced its agenda of cultural genocide of the Tamils in the name of development of the North and East.

The massive and rapid Sinhala settlements in the North and East of Sri Lanka also expose the intention of the Sri Lankan Government in altering the demographic nature of the traditional Tamil homeland through force and intimidations.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay has observed about the lack of progress of the Sri Lankan Government and the failure of the LLRC in addressing the issue or war crimes and political accountability.

The UN Human Rights Council is meeting again next week in Geneva. The United States has submitted the first draft of the resolution: Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka.

The draft resolution expresses concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and failure by the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its public commitments on devolution of political authority.

We have four fresh sets of evidences for these concerns and I am authenticating them to the House.

1. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) Report on Sexual violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces captioned "We will teach you a Lesson"- this is a 147 page document.

2. The CD Cassette of Headlines Today Channel’s program on the sexual violence by the Sri Lankan Forces as narrated by the affected Tamils.

3. The CD Cassette of the documentary "No Fire Zone: The killing Fields of Sri Lanka” documented by Channel 4.

4. The heart chilling photograph of the 12 year old boy Balachandran, son of Prabhakaran who was killed in cold blood in Sri Lankan army custody. Calling Balachandran's killing a war crime, my party supremo Puratchi Thalaivi has termed it an inhuman act and the boy was executed in cold blood just because he he as Prabhakaran's son. She linked these war crimes to the days of Nazi Germany under Hitler.

Tamils have not been proper housing and continue to be treated as second class citizens

The Minister's (Khurshid’s) statement speaks eloquently about the historically friendly relations with a neighbouring country. Sri Lanka as a friendly country is a thing of the past. A country which carried out systematic genocide of my umbilical cord brethren Tamils, how can it be termed as friendly country?

As far as we, the Tamils are concerned, Sri Lanka is an enemy country and will remain so till justice is meted out to the Ealem Tamils.

Ealam Tamils have been pawns in the diplomatic game between the Governments of India and Sri Lanka for over the last six decades with Indian political, military and strategic interests in the geopolitical field playing havoc with the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

There is a general perception that the External Affairs Ministry is run not by the Ministers but by the diplomats whose mindset needs to be changed. It is time that the External Affairs Ministry repositions itself from the Lanka centric foreign policy approach to Tamils’ welfare centric foreign policy approach.

There is no environment to address accountability and dispense justice for these crimes domestically in Sri Lanka. A country which does not have an independent judiciary cannot investigate itself.

During the UNHRC meeting in Geneva in March, 2013, as demanded by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, India should move a single line resolution in UNHRC condemning the genocide in Sri Lanka and demanding an independent international investigation and urge for economic embargo on Sri Lanka.

Finally a word of caution for my friends from Tamil Nadu... Any amount of conferences in Chennai or Delhi or elsewhere and meeting ambassadors of 40-50 countries will not wash the sins of the past. Tamil Nadu will not accept the sinners suddenly becoming saint. All that you have to do now is to force the UPA Government to act - and act firmly against Sri Lanka.

(The above article is the edited text of the speech made by Dr. V Maitreyan, Leader, AIADMK Party in Rajya Sabha on 27 February 2013)

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