Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

NESOHR: Humanitarian Urgency to Re-Open Land Route to Jaffna

March 17, 2007

The re-opening of the main thoroughfare at the entry/exit point at Muhamalai as demarcated in the CFA can serve as a turning point, a catalyst at this juncture.







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March 17, 2007

Mr. Ban Ki-moon
His Excellency, The Secretary General,
United Nations,
New York.

Your Excellency,

Humanitarian urgency to re-open land route to Jaffna peninsula

The North East Secretariat on Human Rights (NESoHR) wishes to place before you its concern over the deteriorating situation in the Island of Sri Lanka since peace talks were stalled for various reasons. It is our observation that non-adherence to the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) has largely contributed to this state of affairs.

In this context, it is appropriate to make reference to the statement made by Mr. Tony Blair, His Excellency the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the House of Commons, reiterating the necessity to restore the status quo as per the CFA.

NESoHR, as the voice of the Tamil people in matters relating to Human Rights, appreciates the sentiments expressed by the British Prime Minister in the exalted Mother of  Parliaments in responding to a question on resumption of hostilities in Sri Lanka.

We earnestly request of Your Excellency too to initiate meaningful intervention to buttress Mr. Blair's opinion.

NESoHR fully endorses the British Prime Minister’s worthy opinion that the parties to the CFA resume political negotiations as envisaged in the CFA. We strongly believe that the CFA, borne out of hard and sincere work by the International Community with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian government, does contain all the necessary elements vital to achieve a lasting resolution of the decades old conflict.

The CFA facilitated the delivery of the primary peace dividend to the Tamil people, namely the removal of  blockade  between Jaffna peninsula and the mainland and thereby restoring their freedom of movement and access to social and economic relationship with their fellow beings in the mainland. This symbiotic relationship notwithstanding, the rest of the  people within and without Sri Lanka too are cut off from the people living in the Jaffna peninsula.

NESoHR strongly feels that building of confidence, an essential component in the equation that is conflict resolution, can be achieved through interaction between communities and therefore the blockade of the A-9 highway at the entry/exit point to Jaffna has seriously retarded confidence-building and by extension the peace process itself. Instead of the parties to the CFA trading accusations against each other, wisdom and circumspection dictate that we act responsibly and allow people an access land route to the currently locked-up Jaffna peninsula. This, no doubt, is their basic human right.

It is the studied opinion of NESoHR that the parties to the CFA, the government of Sri Lanka and LTTE and any other interested parties notwithstanding, none possess the right to blockade the land route and suggest alternative cumbersome sea passage when a trunk road (A-9) is available. In fact, it is the CFA that envisaged the opening of the A-9 for civilian traffic on the very first day of its becoming operative, 22 February 2002, whereas many other benefits were time-framed for achievement from 30 to 160 days. It is a sad commentary on the CFA that many of those benefits have never been achieved due to lack of will and commitment on the part of the Sri Lankan military, resulting in ‘normalcy’ still elusive to the population caught up within the military confines of the Jaffna peninsula. One hundred and sixty days [of blockage of the A-9] against five years of a cease-fire is a matter for serious concern.

The alternative sea routes that are being suggested would only serve ship magnates who own recently-acquired vessels with the primary motive of making quick wealth out of human suffering and are in no way helpful to a distressed people.

As a Human Rights body that has as its vowed commitment the restoration of human rights and resolution of the national conflict, we strongly urge the august assembly, the United Nations to initiate meaningful intervention, including  a UN team  with a special mandate to maintain an unfettered land route to and from the Jaffna peninsula. The re-opening of the main thoroughfare at the entry/exit point at Muhamalai as demarcated in the CFA can serve as a turning point, a catalyst at this juncture. Since one party to the CFA has declared its readiness to facilitate the re-opening of this highway, we suggest that the government of Sri Lanka as the other party act with responsibility and avail of this opportunity to make it a reality.

Non-engagement of parties to the CFA and more so the non-communicative separation of people, have already contributed to a major humanitarian disaster and human rights violations, and it is high time saner counsel prevail with a view to end hostilities and resume the peace process.

We, therefore, earnestly request of Your Excellency to prioritise this matter in the wake of unabated violations of human rights through an effective UN engagement to provide the people who are yearning for peace and normalcy an ‘opening’ at this critical period and make them stakeholders in world peace, a noble goal the UN strives for.

Thanking Your Excellency,

We remain.

Yours sincerely,

Rev Fr. M.X. Karunaratnam


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