The All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG) held a hearing on Thursday 14th June 2007 at the House of Commons, during which the Tamil Writers Guild (TWG) made a presentation on the Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The evidence included a specially commissioned DVD by Dr Brian Senewiratne (a medical Consultant and Human Rights Activist, Australia) and Arjunan Ethirveerasingam (Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation), as well as contributions from TWG and British Tamil Forum representatives.
The audience included MPs from the APPG and senior representatives from the major embassies, NGOs and Multi-Nationals operating in Sri Lanka, as well as representatives from various UK based Tamil organisations and national/international media.
Dr Brian Senewiratne stated:
Although Sri Lanka has had half a century to sort out its problems, the basic problem was created by the British during 150 years of colonial occupation (1796 – 1948). If Britain was the cause of the problem, it must also play a significant role in its solution.
The Sri Lankan government claims that the problem is ‘Tamil terrorism’. Any government’s condemnation of terror is credible only if it shows itself to be responsive to the reasonable, closely argued, persistent and non-violent dissent. No post independence Sinhala government has been responsive to the Tamil people who form 12.5% of the country, and more than 90% of those in the North and East.
Dr Senewiratne’s specially commissioned DVD on the Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka was screened during his presentation and it graphically illustrated the intensification of the Sri Lankan government’s genocidal practices, post Mahinda Rajapakse’s election as President in November 2005. From 2001 for the first three and a half years of the Cease Fire Agreement, about 130 people had been killed but since November 2005 to date, over 4000 people had been killed by Sri Lankan government forces, including 26 identified massacres of unarmed Tamil civilians.
Although Karen Parker (eminent Human Rights lawyer, USA) was unable to attend, her specially prepared statement was read out at the meeting. In it, she stated:
The labelling of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation is both legally and factually incorrect. In fact such labelling flies in the face of existing humanitarian law. The fact that the UK and EU have been persuaded by the US and Sri Lankan governments to ‘list’ the LTTE is a major reason that the peace process broke down and that the Tamil people currently face genocidal policies. The label has also served to demonise the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, as well as in the Diaspora.
Rt Hon Keith Vaz, MP and Chair of APPG for Tamils stated:
More than 60 MPs have shown an interest in Sri Lankan issues, particularly in what is happening to the Tamil community. British Tamils are constantly aware of what is happening to their friends and relatives in Sri Lanka.
That is why they deserve to hear these issues discussed, and to have them taken forward, rather than just discussed in the usual parliamentary way. It is therefore important that we take a lead.
We have a responsibility, the historical ties with our country are profound and, as we know, this country gave independence to Sri Lanka. We have a special bond and relationship because of the large community living here and because of our previous responsibilities.
Ivan Pedropillai, Chair, TWG stated:
It gets progressively worse in Sri Lanka. The most recent atrocity of the forced removal of over 500 Tamils from Colombo is ethnic cleansing of the worst form by the current Sri Lankan regime. It is akin to the genocidal practices in Europe in the 1930s which resulted in Britain taking the lead on challenging the Nazi regime. This is what the EU fought to stop Milosevic from continuing with his ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian and Kosovan Muslims. We must make the whole world aware of this abomination and call on the UK MPs to:
1. to call on the parties to the conflict to seriously sue for peace
2. to actively mediate between the parties to bring about a lasting settlement
3. to advise the Sri Lanka government to refrain from committing further serious human rights violations and ethnic cleansing against the Tamils
4. to accept that because of its historical colonial responsibility and commonwealth leadership, it has an important mediating role to play in helping Norway with the Co-chairs to promote the negotiating process between the protagonists.
5. to recognise that as a necessary corollary to 4 above, that Britain would lift the proscription on the Tamil Tigers in order that they may travel to this country to pursue peace talks and for the UK to be able to influence them (and with the UK’s lifting of the ban, the EU may also be prevailed upon to do the same). The Tigers have never threatened the UK or the EU and to promote talks between the parties, they have to be treated equally.
6. as an interim measure, to immediately cease all arms sales to Sri Lanka and to immediately refrain from deporting Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka
7. to impress on the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK to desist from harassing UK based Tamils and to refrain from engaging in anti Tamil propaganda.
The TWG has made a determined and strong stand on this grave humanitarian crime
at the APPG hearing and with other British based Tamil organisations, we will work closely with the APPG and other bodies to ensure an immediate cessation to the Sri Lankan government’s genocidal policies and a just, equitable and lasting settlement of the Sri Lankan conflict.
For further information, please contact:
Priya Thamotheram, Spokesperson, TWG, Tel: 07968 592851
Vernon Hunte, Senior Parliamentary Officer, Office of the Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz MP
Tel: 020 7219 4605
Source: Tamil Writers Guild
Date: 19 June 2007