Ilankai Tamil Sangam

23rd Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Letter to Louise Arbour on Human Rights in Sri Lanka

by Tamil Community Centre, Ealing, London, October 19, 2007

Since the ethnic war erupted three decades ago, the Tamils have been undergoing untold miseries. Innocent civilians are tormented, tortured, brutally raped, abducted and killed.

High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office if the United Nations
Geneva.

Attn: Ms.Louise Arbour                            

Honourable Madam:

Our members, similar to rest of the Tamil Diaspora the world over, are deeply concerned over the Human Rights Violations taking place in Sri Lanka. We are very hopeful to hear about your trip to Sri Lanka with a view to get first hand information of your views on the H.R. violations taking place there.

We are aware of the visits made previously by Mr. Allan Rock and Sir John Holmes to Sri Lanka. We have noted with regret the disrespectful treatment they received from the Sri Lankan government and the army. The government even went to the extent of referring to Sir John Holmes as a “Terrorist” and insinuating that he was bribed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). We feel ashamed over such an undignified, indecorous and unrefined statement. Please let us tender our apologies for the same, even though the conducive factor was beyond our control.

Dear Honourable Madam, the Tamils have suffered in the hands of the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinist regimes since the British left this country, leaving the Tamils at the mercy of the majority Sinhalese. Since the ethnic war erupted three decades ago, the Tamils have been undergoing untold miseries. Innocent civilians are tormented, tortured, brutally raped, abducted and killed. Several thousands have been killed since the signing of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) on 22.02.2002. Total killed since 1983 has exceeded 70,000. We here refrain from giving details of the atrocities committed by the SL forces, as it will become too long and unwieldy. However, we venture to elucidate just one instance to describe the barbarous and brutish nature of the forces.

“One night Sarathambal the wife of a Hindu Priest was raped by the personnel from the Sri Lankan forces in the presence of the husband, who was gagged and tied down. Since it was a serial rape Sarathambal became unconscious after some time. The perpetrators of this inhuman act before they vacated the premises placed a hand grenade in her genital organ and exploded it to erase any trace of the rape.”

This is not a solo case. There are thousands of women who have been raped, some murdered and some their breasts cut off. Few of those who survived the ordeal have committed suicide, as they could not live with that shame, as chastity is considered such a virtue.

The people living in Vanni in the north are cut to the quick and extremely disappointed on hearing that you are prevented from visiting Vanni to see for yourself the situation prevailing there. A de-facto government is being run in Vanni. They have their own judiciary, law enforcement body, banking, quality control apparatus for food products, health authority. etc. Corruption is taboo in Vanni. Despite its poor natural resources, unemployment and lack of medical facilities, surprisingly enough there are no beggars on the roads or public places and no children hawkers either. The sick, the alternatively able persons, the mentally retarded are all taken care of in various institutions. Children without parents or guardians are housed in “Care Centres.”

The undersigned is in Vanni at the moment on a holiday and hence I am able to see for myself the life of the people here. I observe the Kfir and MIG bombers circling these areas practically daily, each dropping a few bombs here and there quite indiscriminately. Most of the bombs hit civilian targets, including hospitals and schools.

We trust your visit and your actions thereafter will put an end to the extrajudicial killings, abductions, rapes and burglary committed by the armed forces and the paramilitary groups that work hand in glove with the army. While you were in Jaffna you would have come to know that 600,000 people are virtually kept in an open prison with their movements restricted within an area stipulated by the army.

Besides there is a severe shortage of essential items like baby food, groceries, rice, flour, fuel, cement, medicine, etc. What the government sends by ship is partly gobbled by the army and only the rest reaches the people. Food items; mainly the rice and flour are said to be of very poor quality and infested with insects.

The atrocities committed by the government, armed forces and its paramilitary elements are innumerable. Just to cite a few, we append the following:

  • Extrajudicial Killings

    1.1       Politicians – including Members of Parliament

    1.2       Student Leaders

    1.3       Intellectuals

    1.4       Trade Unionist

    1.5       Clergies - Three Catholic Priests have been killed

    1.6       Civilians suspected to be LTTE Sympathisers

    1.7       Media Personnel – Killed, or Abducted and Threatened

    1.8       Personnel Working for NGOs – 44 killed within Two Years

  •    Rape – including serial Rapes – and some victims are murdered thereafter
  •    Burglary – during the nights under the protection of the Curfew Orders.
  •    Abductions – for political vindication and Ransom-Collection in Millions.
  •    Child Recruitment
  •    Ban on Fishing – thus Depriving the Livelihood of People
  •    Closure of Highways
    • Thereby denying Freedom of Movement
    • Creating an Artificial Shortage in all Essential Items
    • Increasing the Prices of Goods

It was very kind of you to have met the mothers and wives of those whose beloved ones have gone missing in Jaffna and Colombo. For years they are undergoing the crucial pain of not knowing as to what happened to those who went “missing.”

We fervently appeal to you to bring an end to the misery of the Tamil people by prevailing upon the GoSL to let the United Nations Human Rights Workers be permanently stationed in Sri Lanka. Knowing the GoSL well, we doubt whether you will be granted permission to do so. Hence, it is up to the United Nations to resort to do whatever is needed to achieve your end.

The Tamil people are placing much faith in your visit hoping for redemption from the slavery, isolation and the monstrosity that they are subjected to at present.

To this end we thank you.

K. Mylvaganam
President