Global Tamil Forum on Sri Lanka Election

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25 April, 2010

Low Tamil turnout reflects their disillusion in the Sri Lankan political system

London April 24, 2010 — The Global Tamil Forum views the parliamentary election in Sri Lanka conducted on April 8, as an election that was imposed on the Tamil speaking people of the island. The Tamils living in a highly militarized oppressive condition continue to undergo many forms of immense suffering, depravation of the basic necessities of life, denial of freedom, fear and intimidation. There are still about 100,000 Tamils housed in military run internment camps and their rights have been denied. Thousands of Tamils have been denied their rights to vote in this election.

The very low turn-out at the polls by the Tamils in Northeast Sri Lanka, clearly due to fear, mistrust and despise for these elections, have sent a clear message to the international community that they have hardly any faith in this Sri Lankan form of ethnic-majoritarian democracy and its mode of elections. The government of Sri Lanka in its attempt to justify it as a democratic government and to deceive the international community, imposed the election on Tamil people in an environment of oppression and occupation.

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A worldwide boycott of Sri Lanka by Suren Surendiran

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11 April, 2010

crossposted on guardian.co.uk

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The island’s tyrannical government cannot continue to ignore international law – the world must stop supporting it

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said in his speech at the Global Tamil Forum conference in February: “It [political reconciliation] will require you to speak up for a vision of a decent Sri Lanka that respects all its people and it will require you to speak up for a spirit that recognises that if people can not find a way to live together they will drift apart.”

However, Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at one of his election campaign rallies in the north of Sri Lanka – which is part of the Tamil homeland – raised his voice in anger last week and shouted in Sinhala: “We are Sinhalese and I am Sinhalese – you listen Tamils!”, as the crowd hooted at him to express their frustration and despair about his policies.

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Tamil Forum calls for boycott of Sri Lanka by Suren Surendiran

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25 March, 2010

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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 –

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Tamils aren’t voting for change by Suren Surendiran

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16 March, 2010

crossposted on guardian.co.uk

The Sri Lankan minority wants autonomy, but persecution in their homeland stopped Tamils voting in the election to effect it

The Tamil National Alliance‘s current manifesto prefers a federal structure in Sri Lanka to a separate state. It claims shared sovereignty, and that the north and east provinces are the historical habitations of Tamil-speaking people. It further states that the Tamil people are a distinct nationality and are entitled to the right of self-determination. Power-sharing arrangements must be established in a unit of merged Northern and Eastern provinces based on a federal structure, in a manner also acceptable to the Tamil-speaking Muslim people. Devolution of power should be in the areas of land, law and order, socioeconomic development including health and education, resources and fiscal powers.

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Over 64,000 British Tamils say yes to Tamil Eelam

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1 February 2010

Press Release

The British Tamil Diaspora overwhelmingly endorsed the principle of Tamil Eelam in two days of polling this weekend. With over 64,000 votes cast, over 99% voted in favour of an independent and separate state of Tamil Eelam.

British Tamils were asked if they endorsed the principles contained in the Vadukkoddai Resolution that was first put to a democratic mandate in 1977. In that historic election the Tamil polity in Sri Lanka voted overwhelmingly for an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam in the traditional Tamil homelands.

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Trampled Tamils lack election appetite by Suren Surendiran

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crossposted on guardian.co.uk
8 January 2010

As video footage prompts UN calls for an inquiry into war crimes by Sri Lankan troops, Tamils are in no mood to play kingmaker

On Thursday, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston called for “an independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes” in Sri Lanka. In particular, Alston has given the UN’s imprimatur to the authenticity of video footage apparently showing summary executions of prisoners in January 2009 in the final stages of the civil war.

The Sri Lankan government has, unsurprisingly, rejected the video as “fabricated”, despite the UN’s reliance on three independent experts in assessing it, accusing Alston of bias and a personal crusade. Any investigation would have to involve both main presidential candidates: sitting president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been the commander-in-chief of the defence forces, and General Sarath Fonseka, who was in charge of the army.

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These candidates are largely to blame for destroying our people by Suren Surendiran

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crossposted on The Independent
7 January 2010

As far as we Tamils are concerned, this is not the right time for any sort of election, regardless of who the candidates are.

Those in the traditional homeland are still recovering from the woes of the war; there has been no time for proper healing, rehabilitation or reconstruction. Most do not know where their loved ones are and whether they are still living or dead. They live in fear under a heavy military presence, with restricted freedom of movement.

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GSP+ Latest Statement by EU + Radio Netherlands Worldwide Newsline Program by Suren Surendiran

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16 December 2009

Radio Netherlands Worldwide ran a headline story regarding the allegations of war crimes reignited by General Sarath Fonseka’s interview to a Sri Lankan broadsheet news paper at the weekend. RNW interviewed me and requested response from the Sri Lankan High Commission at the Hague this afternoon.

Full Newsline programme can be heard by clicking on the link below and choosing Newsline under Listen Again area at the top left corner. Sri Lanka is the second headline news after the Copenhagen Summit news, which will begin from 5.57 on the time-line indicator:

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Stop Sri Lanka’s crimes by Suren Surendiran

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26 October 2009

Sri Lanka has committed nearly every form of crime against humanity. We must act against this state aggression

The US is the latest country to join the ever-growing list of nations that condemn Sri Lanka for its violations of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity and related harms in its fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is complicit in almost all the acts listed in the Rome statute of the international criminal court in its definition of crimes against humanity, according to evidence in a report published by the US state department for Congress on 22 October.

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Shirking a moral duty to Sri Lanka by Suren Surendiran

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9 October 2009

The EU acknowledges that Sri Lanka does not comply with human rights obligations, yet still grants it trade preferences

In 2005, when the EU’s generous tariff preferences arrangement, the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+), was under review, Romano Prodi challenged why, of the countries in the region, Sri Lanka should be granted GSP+ status instead of, say, India or Pakistan. The then Sri Lankan prime minister argued that GSP+ benefits would assist in post-tsunami reconstruction. Sri Lanka’s case prevailed on the strength of the then peace process and the existence of an internationally sponsored ceasefire agreement of 2002, which position found resonance with the EU but which the government of Sri Lanka unilaterally abrogated in January 2008.

Since 2005, Sri Lanka has enjoyed more than three years of GSP+ granted to developing countries primarily to support sustainable economic growth, development and good governance. This has helped make exports to the EU the country’s biggest source of foreign exchange, worth $3.3bn last year.

To benefit from GSP+, countries must have ratified and implemented key international conventions – 23 of the most important international conventions relating to core political, human and labour rights – and demonstrated that their economies were “dependent and vulnerable”.

In October 2008 to consider extension of the privilege, the European commission initiated an investigation with respect to the effective implementation of human rights conventions, in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Sri Lanka slammed the doors shut to any EU probe, saying it would not betray sovereignty to obtain economic benefits.

This investigation was initiated even after May 2008, when the international community finally acknowledged that in Sri Lanka human rights were abused by the government and its agents and that there was no credible systems to persecute such perpetrators. This they did by evicting the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) from the 47-member council of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Abuses and violations of human rights of an entire community continued, and in fact increased beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.

This year, for the first time in Sri Lanka’s gory history, the world witnessed the extent of Tamil blood the Sri Lankan state was willing to shed in the name of “liberating” the island. Despite the protests and media coverage, little came of the pleas of the Tamil diaspora and international calls to end the “bloodbath” that prevailed in May 2009.

Having uprooted and herded over 330,000 IDPs (internally displaced persons) into a small slither of land, unilaterally designated by the Sri Lankan government as a “safe zone”, the military inflicted relentless aerial bombardment, indiscriminate shelling of schools, hospitals and shelter by land, sea and air. Food and medicines were used as weapons of war, with a complete media blackout guaranteeing the government’s accounts were the only ones heard. The damning evidence of the British medic Damilvany Gnanakumar, who witnessed the final days of the conflict and who was detained in the camps until last month, provide a stark contrast to the Sri Lankan government’s claims of “zero civilian casualties”. Most of her stories were corroborated by accounts by international agencies like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN.

In June 2009 the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, convened an emergency session in Geneva calling for an “independent and credible international investigation” into human rights violations by both warring parties. GoSL once again rejected the demands, instead successfully exploiting the UNHRC special session, much to the amazement of human rights groups calling for an international probe, in passing a resolution celebrating its “glorious victory” and allowing it to conduct its own investigation into breaches of international law. The politically manipulated, flawed voting passed by unchallenged, questioning the very purpose of the council and the systems in place to protect humanity.

With the survivors of the “final war” securely imprisoned in military-run internment camps and with the silencing of voices of dissent, the Rajapakse regime continues to keep the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka off the world agenda. More than 280,000 Tamils, including more than 50,000 children, remain “caged” in barbed wire camps under conditions that UN rights experts have likened to “arbitrary detention”, families are separated, the media blackout continues, access for aid agencies remains denied and the reign of impunity ensures abductions, arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial killings, rape and torture remain rife.

With this backdrop, the Economist on 3 September published an article that said:

Rarely has a government soiled its reputation as dramatically as Sri Lanka’s. In recent months President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime has won a war and lost the love of many allies.

Its alleged wartime and other abuses make a grim catalogue: thousands of Tamil civilians allegedly killed by army shelling during the rebels’ last stand; scores of Tamils disappeared; nearly 300,000 Tamil war-displaced callously interned; murder and intimidation of journalists – including JS Tissainayagam, sentenced to 20 years hard labour on August 31st for criticising the army’s tactics.

Disturbing footage aired on Channel 4 News, showing the extra-judicial execution of Tamils by Sri Lankan government soldiers, caused uproar world over at the unashamed disrespect to life and humanity.

The initiation of the EU probe last year to assess renewing GSP+ status to Sri Lanka has prompted little action until now, with last-ditch attempts to hoodwink the international community. The EU has a momentous opportunity to convey a clear message to Sri Lanka.

Unless a clear message is sent by withdrawing the GSP+ privilege from GoSL for being in breach of qualifying conditions, Sri Lanka and other states that enjoy such privileges will continue with human rights violations and lack of systems and governance and maintain the status quo. The fundamental idea of assisting with development of these countries will be lost if such opportunities are missed to put these governments on the right track.

The EU followed its principles and values when it withdrew GSP+ from Belarus in December 2006 for its breach in implementing conventions covered under the International Labour Organisation.

The leaked 130-page EU-commissioned report on Sri Lanka’s compliance concludes:

The three conventions under scrutiny have not been effectively implemented in Sri Lanka. That is the case even if the Government of Sri Lanka has denied non-compliance … The Sri Lankan legislation does also contain provisions which are not in compliance with the conventions.

In addition it must be noted that effective implementation of the conventions has not been, and cannot, be achieved by means of the case law of the Sri Lankan courts … In the emergency legislation human rights are restricted beyond that which is permitted according to the conventions and sweeping powers are given to the authorities.

Many of the state authorities in Sri Lanka entrusted with the task of protecting human rights have lost their legitimacy and credibility because of the non-application of the 17th amendment to the constitution … The absence of a witness protection programme and harassment of witnesses discourages witnesses from appearing and operates as a disincentive to make complaints … The court system has failed … The mass internment of the civilian population in the north is both arbitrary and disproportionate … The legislation, in particular the anti-terrorist legislation, imposes limitations on the freedom of expression which are not compatible with the obligations under the ICCPR … The criminal justice system of Sri Lanka has critical shortcomings that obstruct justice for victims of human rights violations … the fact that the police have increasingly been given a quasi-military role in the insurgency, during which they have become, along with the armed forces, significant perpetrators of violations, rather than investigators … rights of persons belonging to national minorities, in particular to the Tamil population from in the east and north, have not been adequately protected.

On the basis of the preceding findings, the panel has come to the conclusion that the ICCPR, the CAT and the CRC have not been effectively implemented in Sri Lanka

Even after such a damning indictment, reports of a possible “conditional” extension Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status has left many Tamils to wonder whether they will ever see justice.

“Never again” the UN said after Rwanda. President Obama said at the UN last month:

The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear.

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told the International Peace Institute in June:

I believe deeply that atrocities are not inevitable. They need not be part of the landscape of world politics – unless we let them be. In recent years, our consciences have been seared by the horrors of Srebrenica, Rwanda, and Darfur. Today, we are challenged again by the desperate plight of civilians in such places as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sri Lanka, among others.

Do we really want the Tamil child who lost both her parents in the war and is now kept in the illegal barbed wired camp as an orphan to believe in international law, charters, conventions and above all in the world leaders who refuse to accept moral responsibility to protect?

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Sri Lanka’s dangerous silence by Suren Surendiran

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Thanks to Suren Surendiran who sent the link to DS.  His website: http://www.tamilsforum.com

by Suren Surendiran
guardian.co.uk
Monday 20 July 2009 12.34 BST

The conflict is over – now the international community must make sure Tamils get the help they desperately need

Many people are in the camps not because they have no other place to go… They are in the camps because the government does not allow them to leave. — Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch

The Paris-based non-governmental organisation Action Contre la Faim ACF last week accused the Sri Lankan government’s presidential commission of inquiry of failing to identify the people responsible for the killing of 17 aid workers in August 2006, calling it one of the “most serious crimes ever committed against an NGO” and reiterating its calls to the European Union for an “internationalised inquiry into this massacre”.

The government of Sri Lanka continues its farce on the world media stage, parading the five detained Tamil doctors who retracted statements they made on the number of civilian causalities during the final stages of the conflict and prompting calls by Amnesty International for an “independent inquiry” into war crimes. Despite the renunciation by the doctors, who remain in custody and apparently under duress, the UN, aid workers and an investigation by the Times have corroborated the true extent of civilian casualties during the final onslaught.

[…]

via Sri Lanka’s dangerous silence | Suren Surendiran | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Interview: Both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict + Sri Lankan army hits hospital

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AlJazeeraEnglish

What is happening in Sri Lanka’s war zone is practically impossible to verify because independent observers and journalists have little or no access to the area.

In an attempt to gain some clarity, Al Jazeera’s Imran Garda spoke to Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan military, and Thileepan Parthipan, a representative from the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

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Mass protest calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka

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British Tamils Forum
April 11, 2009

…[T]here will a mass protest march taking place today, Saturday 11th April 2009, from 1pm to 4:30pm, in Central London. We would be grateful if you would provide the coverage this humanitarian effort deserves. We are expecting thousands to attend. Over 100,000 attended the last protest march on 31st January 2009.

This demonstration has been organised to raise the call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

In a Press Release on Thursday, 8th April 2009, Human Rights Watch said “Sri Lanka’s so-called ‘no-fire zone’ is now one of the most dangerous places in the world,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Security Council has quibbled over protocol when it should be acting to bring an end to this ghastly loss of life.”

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London Conference Reaffirms Tamils’ Aspirations

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Tamil Insight

Tamil Insight » London Conference Reaffirms Tamils’ Aspirations

(British Tamils Forum, 28.03.2009)

British Tamils Forum, assisted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T), hosted an international conference, titled “World Tamils Forum”, on Thursday, 26 March 2009 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in London. Tamil academics, professionals and Tamil Youth from 22 countries attended the conference, at which Rev Jesse Jackson from the USA was the key-note speaker. The 45 delegates gathered over two days to discuss and draw up a declaration addressing the humanitarian tragedy facing Tamils in Sri Lanka, exposing the Genocidal War, reinforcing the need for a political process and the role that international actors would need to play.

The Former Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka Rt. Hon. Des Browne, Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) Member Mr Mike Griffiths, Entertainer and Charity Worker Sir Jimmy Savile, Members of Parliament from the UK and Sri Lanka, Dignitaries and Civil Servants also attended the conference.

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Frost over the World: Rohitha Bogollagama: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and Suren Surendiran

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“….Israel’s military aggression against Hamas or Hezbollah – Is it going to resolve the Middle-Eastern problem?..Until there is a two state solution that will create peace and harmony for both the Palestinians and the Israelis..just like that, to have peace and harmony, there should be two states in Sri Lanka so that the Tamils and Sinhalese can live side by side as friendly nations….”

“….Liberation fighting is not about owning land and holding on to land…liberation fighting is about fighting for freedom, fighting against oppression and fighting against military aggression…”

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