By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan, ‘LakbimaNews,’ Colombo, September 29, 2012
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) is on an ‘intense campaign’ to highlight the ‘ever deteriorating’ conditions for Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The GTF and the United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) welcomed last week 31 US lawmakers who called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stay engaged in Sri Lanka to ensure that the country complies with the UN Human Rights Council resolution. They further called for accountability and reconciliation.
The letter was initiated by Representatives Bill Johnson (Ohio), William Keating, Michael Grimm and Walter Jones. It quickly gained bipartisan support which included that of Representative Steve Chabot, chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Talking to LAKBIMAnEWS, GTF Spokesperson Suren Surendiran said, “this is not the first time the US lawmakers have taken action in relation to the situation in Sri Lanka. It is with the mandate of the US lawmakers that the Obama Administration successfully brought a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, against the Rajapaksa regime in March 2012. The Senate Resolution 84 that was passed in 2011 called for independent international investigations into “reports of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both parties during the war.” This obviously paved the way to the UNHRC resolution.”
The GTF delegation led by Reverend Father S J Emmanuel met officials from the Republic of South Africa and Switzerland last week, as part of the on-going engagement with international governments to highlight the continuing persecution of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
The Spokesperson said “this is a campaign that will not stop until justice is served for the loss of lives, and a durable political solution that will satisfy the Tamil aspirations is achieved.”
“The fact that the Tamil National Question is held as one of the international priorities of many regional, and other powerful countries, as well as at the level of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, and the European Union among others. This must mean that our campaign has been effective.”
He also added, “consequences of not finding a political solution , addressing issues concerning accountability and the current human rights conditions effectively throughout the island especially in the North and the East must be spelt out to the government in power by the international community and institutions. That will be our priority.”
He also went on to say “the UNHRC resolution in March 2012 was another consequence. We expect countries like India, UK, the US and the non-aligned countries such as Republic of South Africa, Malaysia, other African, Asian and South American countries, to make clear statements of what the consequences will be if Sri Lanka carries on like a failed and racist state as it does now.”
Five years to implement the LLRC?
Suren Surendiran questioned the necessity of five years to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, as stated by the government of Sri Lanka to UN Secretary General Ban-ki- Moon.
“Although the LLRC gives the impression of being a mirror of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, it has no resemblance to it. The lack of a mandate to investigate and not being an independent body undermines it. This is further highlighted by the lack of witness protection mechanisms. It has also been documented that the LLRC has not addressed in its report the issue of accountability. If recommendations from such an inadequate report produced through a discredited process needs 5 years to be implemented, there is great doubt as to whether there is any hope of the government of Sri Lanka implementing any of the more universally accepted recommendations made by the UN Panel of Experts, if there is not sufficient international pressure on them.”
GTF emphasized that only an international, and independent investigation has the capacity to secure truth and accountability, as recommended by the UN Panel of Experts in their report. He said that GTF will continue to engage internationally until justice is served so as to lay down foundations for a meaningful reconciliation between all communities in Sri Lanka.
He also stressed that the work of GTF will continue, even though President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not attend the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA) last week, or even if he were not to attend any other international event in the future.
It is the belief of the GTF that the Tamil National Question can only be resolved by political negotiations through a dialogue process. Due to lack of trust within parties in conflict and taking note of the occurrences since independence, GTF believes that any such negotiation must have the support of international governments, including India.
He said “GTF will work tirelessly until a practical and durable political solution that will satisfy the Tamil aspirations is found. We will work with like minded institutions and people within the Southern civil society to win over their understanding of the issues faced by the Tamils in the island. At the same time we will also work with them to understand their concerns and grievances.”
On being asked whether the only way to put things right is the organising of protests by the Tamil Diaspora whenever the Sri Lankan President is overseas, the Spokesperson disagreed and said, “not at all! That is one of the many effective ways to bring President Rajapaksa and his regime to bear the pressure. Any effective or sustainable reconciliation is only possible when justice is served for the past wrongs. Therefore, we will continue to call for an international independent investigation of both parties to establish the truth.”
GTF reiterated that they believe in achieving a negotiated political settlement for the decades-long national conflict through a process of dialogue and engagement. “In this respect we are convinced that as reported in media recently, the Indian Prime Minister has emphasized the urgency to President Rajapaksa in achieving a lasting political solution to the Tamil National Question.” He said.
South Indian reactions
“GTF does not believe that any solution will have to be imposed upon Sri Lanka by the international community” said Suren Surendiran when questioned on the difficulties faced by Sri Lankans in South India, especially through acts of the MDMK leader Vaiko.
He further added “we believe that only through dialogue and negotiations between the parties in conflict that the Tamil National Question could be resolved. However like I said before, only international pressure and assistance can and will bring the parties to the table to achieve a viable and durable political solution. We, Tamils also believe that any such dialogue and negotiation should be observed and facilitated by all the relevant international stakeholders. Also any outcome will have to be underwritten to ensure solutions are fully implemented in the agreed time frames.”