Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Letter to US Secretary of State

by US NGO Forum on Sri Lanka, February 16, 2009

We would ask you to consider explicit sanctions against the government of Sri Lanka if it does not agree immediately to a ceasefire and to allow the UN and the ICRC to carry out an evacuation operation. The UN must be able to specify the conditions and modalities under which such an operation is to be implemented. In addition, we urge you to call for a discussion in the UN Security Council of the situation in Sri Lanka.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Washington, DC

February 16, 2009

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We are writing to add our voices of concern and outrage over the humanitarian tragedy playing itself out in northern Sri Lanka.

When violence endangered the civilian population in Gaza, the news went out all over the world. Unfortunately, a catastrophe, no less appalling, is taking place in Sri Lanka. Yet this disastrous conflict has received a fraction of the international media attention, allowing the tragedy to unfold without the worldwide scrutiny given to places such as Darfur, Gaza or the Congo.

It is reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross that as many as 250,000 civilians are trapped between the LTTE who are accused of using the people as human shields and government forces that are bombing and
shelling this shrinking conclave with little regard to the cost in noncombatant casualties. No one knows the precise numbers of deaths and injuries because the government has refused independent international observers access to the area and has silenced the national media through various forms of violence and intimidation.

Credible sources report the shelling of hospitals, civilians being fired upon while trying to reach so-called safe zones, life-threatening lack of food, medical supplies, shelter and sanitation. It is reported that Tamil civilians that do evacuate the area are treated as captured enemy, leaving those in the combat zone mistrustful of the Sri Lankan Government’s entreaties to make their way to safe zones.

We appreciate the public statement of concern you issued together with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband. However, each day brings news of more deaths from bombing and a continued disregard for international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, quiet diplomatic appeals seem to be ignored.

We would ask you to consider explicit sanctions against the government of Sri Lanka if it does not agree immediately to a ceasefire and to allow the UN and the ICRC to carry out an evacuation operation. The UN must be able to specify the conditions and modalities under which such an operation is to be implemented. In addition, we urge you to call for a discussion in the UN Security Council of the situation in Sri Lanka.

This is an opportunity for the new administration to reassert this country’s moral leadership on behalf of desperately vulnerable people.

Thank you for your attention to our shared concerns.

Sincerely Yours

Miriam Young
Director of US Advocacy
US NGO Forum on Sri Lanka and Director of US Advocacy
International Working Group on Sri Lanka

Rev. Dr. Paul F. Jahn
Chairman
US NGO Forum on Sri Lanka

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA