Ilankai Tamil Sangam

23rd Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

A Humble Appeal

by K. Mylvaganam

During the past 16 months a staggering number of 3,000 people have been killed according to Human Rights Organisations. On average, 5 to 8 such incidents take place daily, particularly in Jaffna, Vavuniya and in the East.

Your Excellency,

I beg to be permitted to present some facts for your perusal. The ethnic problem in Sri Lanka has existed for over three decades. The situation is worsening day by day. It is the innocent civilians; mostly the Tamils living in the NorthEast, who are severely affected.

One can fully understand if the Sri Lankan government was to target the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in their endeavour to maintain "law and order" in the country. But, unfortunately, the statistics paint a totally different picture of the reality. According to government figures over 65,000 civilians, mostly Tamils, have been killed since the war escalated in 1983 after the communal riots of Black July 1983, when over 3000 Tamils living in Sinhala-dominated areas were massacred, their properties worth billions plundered and/or set on fire. Even a Hindu priest was dragged out of his Temple and burnt alive.

Abductions and Extrajudicial Killings

Your Excellency, since November 2006 the abductions and extrajudicial killings have become an aggravated phenomena. In the government-controlled areas civilians, particularly the young ones, are arrested, abducted or shot dead in broad daylight.

During the past 16 months a staggering number of 3,000 people have been killed according to Human Rights Organisations. On average, 5 to 8 such incidents take place daily, particularly in Jaffna, Vavuniya and in the East. People are terrified even to see a "White Van" on the road, because of the terror created by such vehicles, which are often used to forcibly abduct people. Most of those abducted become "Missing Persons," but the mutilated bodies of some of them are found thrown on the roadside subsequently. The people involved in these killings are either sick or psycho cases that they resort to disgusting methods in their killings. Some bodies were found with their genital organs cut.

Please bear with me when I present the case of Sarathambal's death. She was the wife of a Hindu priest. One night "unidentified" persons forcibly entered their house, tied up the priest and conducted serial rape in the presence of the Priest himself. Finally, before they left, they placed a hand grenade in her genital organ and exploded it to erase the traces of the crime committed by them.  

Ransom

In cities like Colombo and Vavuniya, Tamil merchants are abducted in White Vans and heavy ransom is demanded from the nearest kith and kin.

The Civil Monitoring Committee functioning in Colombo has reported that as many as 100 cases of abductions remain unresolved. This committee has stated that it had documented 67 cases of disappearances reported within the city of Colombo alone. The members of this committee have already presented their case personally to the British and the US embassies. Representatives in the committee from the United National Party (UNP) MP Lakshman Kiriella, MP Mano Ganeshan and the chairman of the committee, Sirithunga Jeyasooriya, have recently met the German Ambassador. They requested that this issue should be taken up with the Co-Chairs, consisting of the EU, US, Japan and Norway.

The question in the minds of the people is, when there are several checkpoints for every few hundred metres, especially in the big cities, how are these white Vans - with or without number plates - operating and freely passing these points unhindered.

Isn't the answer obvious?

Personnel from the armed forces are said to break into houses in the nights and drag away girls and young women. A few of them are killed and the rest are released in the mornings. Some of these return totally mentally distorted after the nightmare that happened to them. Some, unable to face their relatives, resort to committing suicide. Most of these cases are not reported for the fear of social problems arising out of it.

Even the foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera (now removed from his portfolio), while he was serving in the government, reported in writing to the President about the abductions and extrajudicial killings that were bringing disrepute to the government among the international community.

Bombing Civilians 

Fighter bombers drop their bombs often on places where there are only civilians. One can understand the bombing of LTTE camps. But, in fact, schools, churches, and hospitals have all been bombed. The latest was two weeks back when the school at Chundikulam was bombed. A teacher and three children were hurt. Luckily, there were no deaths reported.

In this instance, I wish to refer to the LTTE bombing of the Katunayaka Air Force Base on the 26th of March 2007. I am not holding a candle for the LTTE, but the facts cannot and should not be poisoned. The LTTE could have dropped those bombs anywhere they liked, just as the government forces do. The bombs could have fallen on economic targets like the Colombo Harbour, a Shopping Centre, and a Five Star Hotel or even on Temple Trees, where the President resides. Instead, they went for a military target. But I will not be surprised what the LTTE will select as its next target, if the indiscriminate bombings by the SL forces do not avoid civilian targets. I am sure your Excellency will remember the bombing of an site that had recently been an orphanage – Sencholai – in which 52 children were killed and over 100 were injured.

International Community 

Your Excellency, I tender my apologies in advance when I say that the action taken by the International Community is not only very inadequate, but also seems to allow the SL government a free hand to do whatever they want, except by making soft "Diplomatic Expressions" like "we are concerned" or "we regret to note," etc. So far the international community has not vehemently condemned the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan forces, with or without the blessings of the government. It is hurting to note the international community making statements like "the military efforts alone will not bring peace to this country but political maneuvers by presenting a peace proposal is also essential." By this and similar statements, the international community is indirectly endorsing the military action of the forces. This is one fundamental reason for the Sri Lankan government to proceed with what its current actions against the Tamil civilian population.

Your Excellency, I humbly appeal to you to bring about more pressure on the SL government by way of curtailing foreign aid, stoppling the supply of arms and ammunitions and giving a warning of a possible embargo in the near future.

A UN Human Rights Monitoring Commission should be placed in Sri Lanka to monitor these incidents. Such a Commission is being very strongly recommended by Amnesty International as well.

I understand the international community condemning the LTTE for any killings of civilians but the that community must use the same yardstick with the Sri Lankan government as well. Simply because it is a government it does not mean it is "Licensed to Kill" innocent civilians.

Thank you.

Yours respectfully,