The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), an organization representing the Tamil Diaspora, says the mistrust between the communities in Sri Lanka is growing as a result of a few incidents reported in the country recently.
GTF has over the past few years had meetings on Sri Lanka with key figures of international governments including US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, British Labour and Conservative party members including some ministers and Norwegian government officials.
“Straight after the end of the armed conflict in 2009, sections of the Diaspora successfully conducted a democratic referendum in many countries where the Tamil Diaspora has a large presence, calling to re-mandate the ‘1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution’ which called for separation. Unless the Government of Sri Lanka finds an acceptable political solution to the long lasting Tamil question and grievances in that island, the call for such a state will grow from strength to strength,” GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran said.
Surendiran says the Tamils in Sri Lanka should be made to feel free to speak and feel safe to raise their children without fear, their democratic rights must be restored without any restrictions including constitutional restrictions, there should be an end to army occupation of the north and east and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) should be revoked.
“Tamils in Sri Lanka have experienced 64 years of discrimination and oppression by successive governments of all shades. Deriving a political solution requires leadership, political will and courage. Three years since the end of the war has past, there has been no significant steps taken by the Rajapaksa Regime to come up with a political solution. Successive Sinhala Leaders and governments since independence like President Rajapaksa and his government has mislead, missed opportunities and not demonstrated sincerity in resolving this national question for the past 64 years,” he said.
He says none of the past leaders ever had the courage or wisdom to explain properly to the people of all communities that finding a practical, feasible and acceptable solution to the genuine Tamil grievances will benefit all communities and perhaps give a decent chance for all people to prosper and live peacefully as friendly neighbors.
“Instead every leader and government since independence without exception has abused the situation and circumstances to their own advantage. I would like to acknowledge that at different times in the past, Tamils and Tamil leaders too could have dealt with matters differently. It is now up to the people of all communities of that island living inside or outside to come together to act responsibly rather than believing or expecting people like Rajapaksa or others to resolve these fundamental issues before it’s too late,” he said. The GTF called on the government to reveal the names of several people who were arrested during and soon after the war under emergency regulations and are being held without proper legal process and for them to have access to legal counsel, their families and humanitarian agencies.
Surendiran said those people should either be charged under the law of the land or be released forthwith. He also said that the government must stop sponsored colonisation including “land grabbing” which is being reported in the North and East of the island.
Surendiran said that the government must also disarm paramilitary groups and bring law and order to the whole of the island, the people must have their lands and homes back and they should be resettled where they originally lived, there should be structured and well funded rehabilitation and resettlement programmes implemented without too much government interference or corruption and reconstruction programmes must be implemented in the war affected areas.
“We want the disparity in development between the regions of the island to be minimised, basic priorities of all people (e.g. education, health, employment etc.) to be treated as priorities and dealt without corruption. We want justice for all the wrongs that were done to our people in the name of the war against terrorism. Probe allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity against both parties to the armed conflict by an independent international body. Just as we accept that there is a Sinhala Nation, accept that there is a Tamil Nation too in that island,” he said.
He also said that a credible and genuine political process should be initiated with international sponsorship, unlike the ones that the government introduces when pressure mounts to seek a durable political settlement to resolve the long standing genuine grievances of the Tamil people and all people.
“We want all of the above to be a part of the process that will lay the foundations for a long lasting reconciliation process that will enable people to live side by side, as friendly neighbours. Above all, we do not want the Sinhala people to feel that they are outcasts for the colossal mistakes and wrongdoings of a few in the government and the military,” he said.
Meanwhile Surendiran dismissed the idea that Sri Lanka’s biggest neighbour India was not exerting pressure on the government to address Tamil concerns.
“Remember, India voted in favour of the US and forty other countries sponsored the UN Resolution at the UNHRC in March 2012. India could have easily abstained or even voted against,” he said.
Surendiran also dismissed allegations that the Global Tamil Forum was one sided and focused only on allegations against the government.
“In every single one of GTF’s formal statements to any media, international governments and non-governmental institutions, we have maintained the call for an international independent investigation into alleged war crimes, breaches of international laws and international humanitarian laws by both sides,” he said. Surendiran also warned that eventually those guilty of committing alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka will be held accountable by the international community.
“It is not about whether but when? – It’s just a matter of time. When international laws and Geneva conventions are breached, these matters do go through due process to its legal conclusions. To maintain law and order and to maintain international governance there are mechanisms, processes and systems in place which will eventually catch up with the perpetrators. Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milošević are a few recent examples of similar cases,” he said. (ER)