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crossposted on http://blogs.reuters.com
Suren Surendiran is a senior member of the British Tamils Forum and the official spokesperson for the Global Tamil Forum. The opinions expressed are his own.
“Some governments try to dodge criticism by claiming that human rights are ‘western values’. But people all over the world prove them wrong by demanding and suffering for their human rights – be they imprisoned protesters in Iran, or murdered journalists in Russia, or civilians caught up in conflicts in Sri Lanka or Gaza. We must continue to support people who demand their human rights across the world.” – David Miliband, Foreign Secretary, Statement to mark International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2009 –
Sri Lanka’s president is pressing forward with parliamentary elections on April 8, 2010 despite allegations of electoral malpractice surrounding his own presidential election victory in January, the country facing economic crisis and growing international criticisms for the State’s callous disregard for human rights, general governance and lack of political will to resolve the 62 years long conflict.
The U.S. State Department, in its Annual Report on Human Rights for 2009, has been highly critical of the Sri Lankan government. It says the government or paramilitary groups close to it were involved in summary killings and disappearances and that lawyers and journalists were harassed and victimised. It says the war-affected parts of the country saw the greatest number of political disappearances, estimated to be in the hundreds.
Britain has also named Sri Lanka a “country of concern” in the latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Report 2009. “This reflects our concern about allegations of serious conflict violations, as well as the deteriorating status of the rule of law and freedom of expression…” – United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office Annual Report on Human Rights 2009
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 8, 2010 expressed “concerns about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of Internally Displaced Persons and the setting up of an accountability process in Sri Lanka”.
The prospect of a panel of experts being appointed to advise the Secretary General on accountability issues relating to Sri Lanka was not welcomed by President Rajapakse who said it was “uncalled for and unwarranted”.
Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations Sir Mark Lyall Grant has said that UK disagrees with the argument put forward by the Non-Aligned Movement and that “[Secretary General] does have a mandate through the U.N. charter to uphold human rights and humanitarian international law, and therefore he is entirely within his rights to set up a group of experts who will advise him on taking forward his concerns about some of the allegations that have been made in the recent months in Sri Lanka”. – Colombopage, 20 Mar 2010
“Sri Lanka’s government has sought an additional 39.6 billion rupees ($345 million) to fund its military, a 20 percent increase from the original defence budget despite the end of a 25-year war against Tamil Tigers in May.
“Sri Lanka has a public sector of around 6 percent of the population. Maintaining loss-making public institutions without reforms, high and unproductive subsidies, a government with over 110 Ministers and expenditures that make more political than economic sense are other factors in the deficit.” – Reuters, March 4, 2010
It is no surprise that the International Monetary Fund has delayed the third tranche of a $2.6 billion loan after Sri Lanka failed to achieve its budget deficit target to reduce deficit to 7 percent of GDP.
An IMF mission to Sri Lanka in February concluded that they were unable to “complete” its review until the pending parliamentary elections in April. It is however important to note that Sri Lanka’s last two IMF programs ended with missions that were unable to “complete reviews”, effectively staying suspended. – Lanka Business Online, 25 Feb 2010.
Despite Sri Lanka’s claims that it can overcome suspension of IMF loan, the country is already fearing the affects of the temporary suspension of General Scheme of Preference (GSP+) trade concessions due to come into effect in August 2010.
“Western countries, and groups in the Tamil Diaspora, are pressing for some kind of accountability for thousands of civilian deaths at the end of the war. Sri Lanka is adamant its soldiers did not violate international law, and that for now has cost it enhanced European Union trade preferences known as GSP+ worth $136 million a year.” – Reuters, 2 Mar 2010
Some of these above quotes and links stand as evidence that credible independent media organisations, institutions and foreign governments have highlighted facts, which I have used to illustrate my argument that the Rajapaksha regime is driving Sri Lanka into economic ruin for the sake of power at the cost of humanity itself.
It is hoped that all donors including China, Japan and India will follow precedence set by Britain and the U.S. in persuading Sri Lanka to address its human rights record.
It is against this backdrop and as part of its campaign to create worldwide awareness of the real human rights situation in Sri Lanka, the Global Tamil Forum has called for a worldwide boycott of Sri Lankan products and services – www.boycottsrilanka.com