Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

44 Humanitarian Workers Killed in Sri Lanka

January 2006 - August 2007

by Tamil Centre for Human Rights, Paris, August 21, 2007

[T]he Sri Lankan government expects ALL foreigners to say something good about its respect for human rights, even at a time when Sri Lanka ranks as the country with the second highest number of disappearances in the world. Furthermore, while their security forces and the paramilitaries continue to abduct, torture, rape and summarily execute people with impunity...

If these authorities accept the fact that aid workers have been killed in Sri Lanka, what actions have they taken so far, to bring the perpetrators to justice? What have they done other than justifying the violations committed by the security forces and paramilitaries? 

Names of those killed, the date and the organization they worked for is given below.

Ref : IP063/PR/2007                                                              21 August 2007 

 

44 Humanitarian workers killed in Sri Lanka since January 2006

 

"Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well" -- Samuel Butler

The recent visit by Sir John Holmes, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs, has created an abnormal dynamic between the UN and the government of Sri Lanka. This is not the first time that a controversy like this has arisen between Sri Lanka and the UN or various other international institutions and VIPs. We can quote several incidents, including the visits to the island by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, UN Special Adviser Allan Rock and others.

Why and how are these controversial affairs cropping up? Who is causing these problems and what are the circumstances? An analysis is required.

At the outset, we would like to point out that the recent statement by Sir John Holmes and counter statements on behalf of the Sri Lankan government by various ministers, only refer to aid workers killed since January 2006 and to whether Sri Lanka is safe for humanitarian workers. The statements do not refer to the many other attacks on aid workers, local and international NGOs, nor to any other of the litany of horrendous human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

During his visit to war-torn Sri Lanka, Sir John Holmes told Reuters in an interview on 8 August 2007: "Aid agencies say 34 humanitarian staff have been killed in Sri Lanka since January 2006, including 17 local staff of Action Contre La Faim shot dead in the restive northeast a year ago in a massacre Nordic truce monitors blamed on security forces. There is a concern ... about the safety of humanitarian workers themselves and the record here is one of the worst in the world from that point of view."

Soon after this was published, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told Parliament, "The government of Sri Lanka, in no uncertain terms, rejects John Holmes' assertion that Sri Lanka is not safe for humanitarian workers...  The government cannot but feel that Sir John has contributed to those who seek to discredit the government and tarnish its international image." (BBC-South Asia, 10 August 2007)

Immediately after the Prime Minister's statement, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a media release on 11 August 2007, asserted that there are damaging contradictions in statements attributed to Sir John Holmes: "Further, as to the figure the Reuters report quotes of '34 humanitarian staff' who have been 'killed in Sri Lanka since January 2006', taking into account the killings of the 17 ACF workers and of the 2 Red Cross workers, which adds up to 19, it is intriguing how the figure of 34 was arrived at."

Three days after the media release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister and Government Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, speaking at a media briefing on 14 August 2007, said, "The 17 ACF workers, two red cross members and a worker at the Danish De-mining group were killed. This adds up to 20. We want to know the details of the other 14 killings as stated by Holmes. We have written to the Permanent Representative in New York on this issue". ('Morning Leader' of 15 August 2007)

To add more fuel to the fire, Chief Government Whip and Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle told the briefing in the Sinhala language, "I would say Holmes is completely a terrorist, a terrorist who supports terrorism. We consider people who support terrorists also terrorists. So Holmes, who supports the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), is also a terrorist. This person tries to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka internationally." He added. "I think the LTTE has bribed Holmes." (Reuters, 15 August 2007). The government of Sri Lanka has long used this tactic, to prevent the truth from being voiced by VIPs and international institutions.

On 16 August 2007, UN Secretary General's Spokesperson Michele Montas said in the daily press briefing that, "...There was a statement made in the press and, you know, giving accusations against Mr. Holmes.  We believe them to be unwarranted and unacceptable. The Secretary-General fully supports the work of his Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes.  So that ¡s what I can say at this point concerning those comments."

(Page 1 of 4)

Undiplomatically, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle told "The Nation"  that, "I don¡'t give a damn about what this UN boss has to tell me or Sri Lanka. He can say whatever he wants, but I will still go by what I said and that is, John Homes is a terrorist who takes bribes from the LTTE.... I do not care what the UN Secretary General says. We cannot allow any foreigner to come to our country and work against us" (The Nation - August 19, 2007)

Yet the Sri Lankan government expects ALL foreigners to say something good about its respect for human rights, even at a time when Sri Lanka ranks as the country with the second highest number of disappearances in the world. Furthermore, while their security forces and the paramilitaries continue to abduct, torture, rape and summarily execute people with impunity.

If Sir John Holme's statement that "34 humanitarian staff have been killed in Sri Lanka" is an issue, a few observations are pertinent:

(1) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that nineteen (19) humanitarian staff have been killed in Sri Lanka since January 2006, but Minister and Government Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told the media the figure is twenty (20).

There is an obvious contradition in figures even among ministers. In fact, the actual figure of the humanitarian aid workers killed since January 2006 is forty-four (44). Below, TCHR gives the  names of the victims, date of incident and the organisations they belonged to.

The patterns and methods of killing in Sri Lanka vary. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of abductions result in disappearances - the abductors use intensive torture, which in many cases end in killings - or after a prolonged period of disappearance the victim is presumed to be dead.

(2) The statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Minister and Government Defence spokesman require further analysis. If these authorities accept the fact that aid workers have been killed in Sri Lanka, what actions have they taken so far, to bring the perpetrators to justice? What have they done other than justifying the violations committed by the security forces and paramilitaries? 

At this juncture, it is interesting to note that President Rajapaksa himself denied the severity of Sri Lanka's human rights violations and gave empty assurances of action, in his address to the ILO conference in Geneva on 15 June 2007: "I want to assure you that our Armed forces and the Police are among the most disciplined in the world, and they have great respect for human rights. Any lapses on their part will be promptly investigated and corrective action taken.  But I am sad to say that there has been so much of false propaganda against the Sri Lankan Armed forces and the Police that is being taken so seriously by the rest of the world."

(3) Minister and Government Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella stated further in the briefing on 14 August, mentioned earlier: "We suspect that the rest of the killings have been done by the LTTE. We are leveling a direct allegation and this needs explanations." Does this mean that the Defence spokesman and Minister accepts that all twenty (20 is his figure) aid humanitarian workers,  - 17 ACF workers, 2 Red Cross members and a worker of the Danish De-mining group were killed by Sri Lankan government forces? If not, how can he say: "We suspect that the rest of the killings have been done by the LTTE."?

In conclusion, we would like to state that, whoever wishes to visit Sri Lanka should be prepared to release only statements ignoring the government's horrendous human rights record. If anyone happens to make an independent comment about the realities in Sri Lanka, they will be branded as a "Terrorist" or as "helping the terrorists." Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who intends to visit Sri Lanka in October should be prepared either to go along with the government or to face condemnation.  

We predict that nothing will take place against Sri Lanka during the forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council. The pending visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Sri Lanka will be used as a pretext to prevent any action against Sri Lanka. This is how the government has managed for a year - using the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP).

HEAD OFFICE:

Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR/CTDH

9, rue des Peupliers - 95140 Garge les Gonesse - FRANCE

Contact person : S. V. Kirubaharan ¨C General Secretary

Tel/Fax: + 33 1 42 67 54 36  - Email: tchrgs@hotmail.com / tchgs@tchr.net

TCHR-UK

Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR/CTDH

PO Box 182, Manchester M16 8ED, UNITED KINGDOM

Contact person : Deirdre McConnell ¨C Director International Programme

Fax: + 44 161 860 4609 - Email: tchrdip@hotmail.com / tchrdip@tchr.net                                               

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TAMIL CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS - TCHR/CTDH

CENTRE TAMOUL POUR LES DROITS DE L'HOMME

(Established in 1990)

 

Ref : IP063/PR/2007                                                          21 August 2007

44 Humanitarian staff killed in Sri Lanka

since January 2006

 

(Listed by organisation in alphabetical order)

 

 

Action Contre La Faim (ACF), 4 August 2006

1 - Mr. Primus Anandarajah Assistant Promotion Manager
2 - Mr. Matahavarasa Ketheeswaran Supervisor
3 - Mr. G. Sreethraran Advanced Field-Officer
4 - Mr. Narmathan Field officer
5 - Mr. R. Arulraj Field officer
6 - Mr. P.Pratheeban Field officer
7 - Mr. M. Rishikeshan Field officer
8 - Mr. Y Kodeeswaran Field officer
9 - Ms. K.Kovarthani Hygiene Promotion Officer
10 - Ms. S.Romila Hygiene Promotion Officer
11- Ms. V.Kokilavathani Hygiene Promotion Officer
12- Ms. G. Kavitha Hygiene Promotion Officer
13 - Mr. S. Ganesh Age 54, Driver, Father of G. Kavitha
14 - Mr. Abdul Latif Mohamed Jauffer  
15 - Mr. A. Jaseelan  
16 - Mr.  K. Koneshwaran Driver
17 - Mr. Muraleetharan Driver

 

Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Danish De-mining Group, DDG

18 - Mr. Arumainayagam Alloysius - 23 July 2007
19 - Mr. Sivarasa Vimalarasa - 19 June 2007
20 - Mr. Thambiah Tharmasiri - 11 January 2006
21 - Mr. Narayanamoorthy Kandeepan - 11 January 2006

 

Halo Trust, a non-governmental de-mining organisation  

22 - Mr. Nagarasa Narenthiran 9 February 2007
23 - Mr. C. Rajendran - 9 January 2007
24 - Mr. Subramaniam Parameswaran - 4 January 2007
25 - Mr. Gunaratnam Logithas - 4 February 2006
26 - Mr. Charles Huston Ravindran - 15 November 2006

                       

Housing development for tsunami victims, funded by FORUT, 8 July 2006

27 -      Mr. Rasiah Muraleeswaran 

 

Human Development Centre (HUDEC), 10 April 2006

28 -      Mr. Pathmanathan Shanmugaratnam

29 -      Mr. Selvendra Pradeepkumar

                                                                  (Page 3 of 4)                

 

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 1 June 2007

30 -        Mr. Sinnarajah Shanmuganathan

31 -        Mr. Karthigesu Chandramohan

 

Methodist Community Organization for Refugees (UMCOR) ¨C 6 August 2007 

32 - Mr. Mohamed Zavahir Mohamed Rizvi  

       

Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO)  

33 - Mr. Kasinathar Ganeshalingam 29 Jan. 2006 Director
34 - Mr. Thangarasa Karthirkamar 29 Jan. 2006 Driver
35 - Ms Thanushkodi Premini 30 Jan. 2006 Chief Accountant
36 - Mr. Thamiraja Vasantharajan 30 Jan. 2006 Accountant
37 - Mr. Shanmuganathan Sujendran 30 Jan. 2006 Accountant
38 - Mr. Kailyapillai Ravinthiran 30 Jan. 2006 Accountant
39 - Mr. Arunesara Satheeskaran 30 Jan. 2006  
40 - Mr. Krishnapillai Kamalanathan 02 July 2006 Humanitarian worker
41 - Mr. Muthuraja Aruleswaran 24 March 2007 Emergency Asst worker

 

UN agency UNOPS in Amparai, 24 August 2006 

42 -      Mr. P. Jestly Julian

 

World Bank-assisted North East Irrigated Agriculture Project (NEIAP), 26 May 2006  

43 - Mr. Ratnam Ratnarajah Deputy Project Director (DPD)

                                           

World Concern Development Organization, Trincomalee, 11 September 2006

44 - Mr Ragunathan Ramalingam Field worker

 

 * * * * **

 At least 22 NGO workers killed

between April 2006 and September 2006

says a humanitarian worker

 

...............So today we had to start looking at all the proposals and projects he was handling to see what needs to be done and how we can cover his work - and it's almost impossible to get any staff to work here as they only offer local level salaries when the NGOs are paying much better - supply and demand works in the NGO sector as much as anywhere else and there is a shortage of experienced and skilled humanitarian workers - especially when working in the North and East now involves considerable risk - a local staff member of World Concern was shot yesterday on his way to work.  As far as I can work out that brings the death toll to at least 22 NGO workers killed in Sri Lanka since April this year and many others have been picked up and disappeared.  (Excerpt, "Acting up in Sri Lanka" - 13 September 2006)  http://nightingalesangatwcc.typepad.com/srilanka/2006/09/index.html

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