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Forced Evictions of Tamils from Colombo

by Tamil Centre for Human Rights, September 9, 2010

We call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop the forcible removal of its citizens from Colombo, to make public the destinations of those already removed, and to ensure their safety and well-being.

Rest of report to UN Human Rights Council

On 7 June 2007

*          500 Tamils were forcefully expelled from the lodges in Colombo and sent out of Colombo to Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Vavuniya with Police escort

*          Further 400 are being detained in Police stations in Colombo.

 

Sri Lanka police send Tamils back to their villages 

COLOMBO, June 1 (Reuters) - Ethnic minority Tamils staying in the capital Colombo "without a valid reason" are being sent back to their villages in a bid to stamp out rebel attacks, Sri Lanka's police chief said on Friday.

Hundreds of minority Tamils, many from poor rural areas, live in boarding houses in Colombo while they work or search for jobs or seek employment abroad.

Many ethnic Tamils in Colombo complain they are being deliberately targeted by the security forces, detained and searched as the state fights a new chapter of a two-decade civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"Because there is no a special label to identify an LTTE terrorist and a civilian, we took the decision to send them back to their villages after they finished their work here in Colombo," Inspector General of Police Victor Perera told a news conference.

"Some people who have arrived in Colombo do not have a valid reason to stay," he added. "Anybody can come to Colombo, there is no restriction. But they can't stay loitering in Colombo. We have decided to provide transport facilities for them to go back to their own villages."

The move comes after two suspected Tamil Tiger bomb attacks in the capital in a week and a string in recent months as a conflict that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983 deepens.

Officials suspect that Tiger cells are installed in the capital and seeking to stage attacks. But the planned restriction on Tamils rang alarm bells.

"If a democratic society takes this course of action, it is unacceptable because it is clearly a serious violation of their human rights," said Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, a non-partisan advisory group. "This is a very harsh decision."

"This is the first time such a thing has been spoken about officially, so it suggests the conflict is deteriorating," he added. "This is a new low."

Fighting is now focused on the north after the military captured the Tigers' eastern stronghold, and a string of land and sea battles has killed around 4,000 people since last year.

 

Ranil on forced eviction of Tamils

Daily Mirror, 8 June 2007 - Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, yesterday, compared the plight of the Tamils under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, to that of the Jews in Germany during World War 2 and of Black Africans, during the apartheid era in South Africa.

Speaking in Parliament on the government led eviction of Tamils in Colombo, Mr. Wickremesinghe said that Jews and Black Africans had faced similar persecution in the past, at the hands of Germans and Whites respectively.

He said the government’s actions violated the Constitution, which clearly stated that all citizens of Sri Lanka must be free from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and had the right to free movement and to choose their area of residence.

“We are also concerned about the security of the country. If the government suspects anyone they can produce that person before a magistrate and remand the suspect, or release the person,” he said.

He noted that when people were evicted from the lodgings in such an arbitrary manner, they would return in anger to blast bombs.

Mr. Wickremesinghe added that the situation would bring shame upon Sri Lanka at the European Parliament sessions, and queried as to why the government was creating such a crisis for the country.

(Excerpt)

 

Send Tamils to India – UNP! 

BBC Sinhala service, 8 June 2007 - Sri Lanka's main opposition party has requested the giant neighbour to allow minority Tamils to settle in India. The United National Party (UNP) legislator Lakshman Kiriella said the party urges India to allow Tamils to migrate until their safety is guaranteed by the island nation.The UNP made the request after hundreds of Tamils were evicted from Colombo's lodges by the police. (Excerpt)

 

Mahinda 'dividing' Sri Lanka 

BBC Sinhala service, 8 June 2007 - Rights activists have accused of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of working on an agenda to divide Sri Lanka between ethnic lines. Protesting the eviction of hundreds of Tamils from the lodges in Colombo, they said Sri Lankan citizens should have the right to live where they like irrespective of their ethnicity.

Siritunga Jayasuriya, chairman of Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC), told BBC Sandeshaya that Sri Lanka authorities are trying to alienate Tamils community in Sri Lanka.

War on terror

President's Rajapaksa's administration, he said, is working on an agenda similar to that of President Bush's War on Terror. Jayasuriya accused the authorities of trying to divide Sri Lanka. "President Rajapaksa has put the first step towards dividing Sri Lanka into separate countries," Jayasuriya told bbcsinhala.com. (Excerpt)

World War II

The leader of the Left Front, Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, questioned under which regulations authorities decided to deport Tamils from Colombo. He compared the eviction of Tamil lodgers to the eviction of Jews by the Nazzis during the second world war. "The Tamils were taken away like animals without offering any food or water," Dr. Karunaratne said. (Excerpt)

 

The United States condemns the forced removal of Tamils 

June 8, 2007 - The United States condemns the forced removal of Tamils from Colombo.  Such measures violate the Sri Lankan Constitution’s guarantee that every citizen has the right to freedom of movement and choice of residence within Sri Lanka.

The United States understands and supports Sri Lanka’s obligation to defend itself against terrorism.  But this action can only widen the ethnic divide at a time when important efforts are underway to reach a national consensus to end Sri Lanka's nearly quarter-century old conflict.

We call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop the forcible removal of its citizens from Colombo, to make public the destinations of those already removed, and to ensure their safety and well-being.

(The Embassy of the United States – Sri Lanka & Maldives, 8 June 2007)

 

Norway condemns enforced removal of Tamils from Colombo


09 June 2007 - The full text of the press release by Norweigian Embassy in Colombo concern the forced evication of Tamils from Colombo :

"Norway condemns yesterday’s sudden and enforced removal of civilian Tamils from their dwellings in Colombo.

"The move by the Colombo police is a clear violation of international human rights law. The Government of Sri Lanka has legitimate security concerns. Moreover, it has the right and obligation to take measures to guarantee the safety of its population. However, such measures should not indiscriminately target Tamils, or any other ethnic group, and should always be in accordance with international human rights law.

"We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to cease any further enforced removal of Tamils from Colombo, and to consider granting immediate permission to return for those already removed from the city. "

Canada condemns the forced removal of

citizens of Tamil origin from Colombo

10 June 2007

The Canadian High Commission's full text of the press release :

"Canada condemns the forced removal of citizens of Tamil origin from Colombo back to the conflict zones in the north and the east".

"Whilst Canada acknowledges that the Sri Lankan government has the right and the duty to protect itself and its citizens against potential terrorist attacks, such as the reprehensible bombings in Colombo Fort and Rathmalana in recent weeks, the heavy-handedness of this sweeping action will only alienate the vast majority of innocent Tamils and further complicate the search for a durable peace settlement ."

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"Canada welcomes the stay issued by the Supreme Court which prevents further removals and notes that President Rajapakse has directed that these people be returned to Colombo if they wish."

"Canada reiterates that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict that has besieged this Island for more than 20 years and reaffirms the need for a political solution where the rights and aspirations of all citizens of Sri Lanka can be respected."

 

Indian PM concerned over eviction of Sri Lankan Tamils

10 June 2007

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday expressed concern over the eviction of minority Sri Lankan Tamils from the capital Colombo and hoped 'better sense will prevail' in the troubled nation.

'On attempt to expel Tamils from Colombo, Sri Lanka, we shared our anxiety with important world leaders,' the prime minister said while returning from Germany where he attended the G8 Outreach Summit.

'Hope better sense will prevail. It involves human rights of citizens,' added the prime minister, referring to a pre-dawn raid by the armed police Thursday on the temporary lodgings of Tamils in Colombo and forcing them go return to the northern and eastern provinces.

'I heard that this move has been stayed by their Supreme Court. We share the concern.'

(http://www.indiaenews.com/india/20070610/55516.htm)

 

BJP slams move to evacuate Tamils from Colombo

The Hindu – 10 June 2007

CHENNAI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday condemned the Sri Lankan Government's move to evacuate Tamils from Colombo.

Terming the move "human rights violation," BJP national vice-president S. Thirunavukkarasar said India should join other countries in condemning the "evacuation."

The party, he said, also opposed sale of any type of arms to Sri Lanka as these would be used against Tamils. (Excerpt)

 

Eviction is not ‘winning hearts and minds’

By Shakuntala Perera

(Daily Mirror – 30 August 2007)


Nationalist politics invariably crossing over to various levels of extremism have always been the bane of Sri Lanka. Such opportunist politics have always beein in the way of the country reaching its development goals. It has more importantly been the biggest obstacle in the way of minorities receiving their due. But, never in the history of this country has the situation dropped to the depths that they have today.

Allegations of attempts to change the demography of the country, especially with regard to the contentious Eastern and Northern provinces, increase at an alarming rate. Several development plans of the government especially in the East is showing strong moves to this end.

The newly ‘liberated’ Eastern province is today a volcano awaiting eruption. The political agendas of various nationalist groups are threatening the peace of the province as never before. More seriously, they are threatening the lives of innocent people caught in between.

Following the first movement of displaced persons, 6,000 families, approx 30,000 persons, took place in April 2006 from the Trincomalee District to the Batticaloa District after the Mavil Aaru clashes between the Government and the LTTE. The IDPs first moved from Trincomalee to Vaharai in the Batticaloa district, then in late 2006 from Vaharai to Batticaloa. The third movement of persons was from West Batticaloa to Batticaloa East.

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The resettlement plans of the government are accused of attempts to ‘Sinhalise’ the province. The allegation is strongly contributed to by clear moves to cement the demands by religious foundations.

Both humanitarian agencies operating in the areas and the people left destitute confirm that there were clear moves by certain political organizations to settle Sinhala families within Muslim villages have only poured fuel to the sensitivities of the area. The anger rising out of the Muslim community is not to be ignored. Such anger has the potential to grow in to militancy as we experience with the LTTE. The frustrations growing out of the situation are not to be ignored.

The government by Gazette notification No 1467/3 Board of Investment of Sri Lanka Law No 40(1978), declared a new High Security Zone covering Sampur and Muttur East on 16 February 2007. The declaration of HSZ for an Economic Zone will lead to the displacement of thousands. The government has reportedly already taken action to acquire land for relocation of said displaced families. Eastern Security Forces Commander Parakrama Pannipitiya has been appointed as the Competent Authority for the implementation of the regulations.

There are suspicions that ‘a new and trustworthy work force and new communities, most likely Sinhala will be moved into Trincomalee, ‘dramatically impacting on the demography and the ethnic balance in the Trincomalee District.’ Already local communities are expressing fears that their areas are being marginalized and their needs and rights are being ignored in the proposed development plans.

Moves under the BOI Trincomalee Development Plan, to establish a nature park and in Seenanveli, north of Illankaiturai Muhattuvaram, a HSZ and a special fishing zone are not without their questionable implications. The residents, most of them Tamils of Veddha descent, from about 8 villages, have been transported and virtually dumped in the open. ‘They are prevented from going home on the pretext of landmines while their meagre possessions have been reportedly looted by ‘Sinhalese’ from the Mahindapura colony, acting allegedly in cooperation with the Army’. The army is also engaged in constructing a Buddhist Temple, Samudragiri Vihara, in Seenanveli.

The Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC) maintain the allegations have a sound basis. They allege that the current development plan for Trincomalee or the soon to be unveiled Eastern Development Plan has elements contributing to the mistrust. ‘This concern of minority communities needs to be addressed and their fears allayed as speedily as possible’ they maintain.

Certainly the eviction of 251 resettled farmers from Arafa Nagar on 10th, August, without prior notice by the military, demonstrates that it is not purely security concerns that keep the Tamils out of their lands. Such actions and in some instances obstacles placed in the way of resettlement are prompted more by ethnic considerations than by security safeguards. These Muslim families who earlier received the green light to rebuild their lives and continue farming from the security forces were suddenly evicted. All hopes of bringing some normalcy to their hopeless lives were short lived, they found. Five months to be exact.

A board declaring it a High Security Zone was erected on August 10, with a warning issued against trespasses. Trespassers were threatened with death. It is such harsh decisions by the State that are pushing the minority communities further and further awy from the Centre. These are far from the ambitious plans that the government spoke about to ‘win hearts and minds’ of the liberated people. In effect these and many other similar examples are pushing the people towards the LTTE. There are serious questions raised if the demands of the LTTE are not justified. Pertinent questions are being asked on the intentions of the government policy in this regard. The people want to know if liberation from one terror group was only going to push them towards another dictatorial rule.

South Asians for Human Rights last week charged against the moves to Sinhalise the area. ‘Appointment of numerous Sinhala government officials to the Provincial Council in the East after the de-merger of the Northern and Eastern province; establishment of Sinhala resettlements in Ampara; and building Viharas in Pottuvil, a predominantly Muslim area. The Muslim people, correctly, viewed themselves as being stuck between Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms,’ they allege.

The concern of international communities can’t be ignored in this scenario. Human rights violations, what ever form they take must remain the necessary concern of the international stakeholders. Attempts to antagonize them would not help the government in any way. The fact remains that all democratic governments are accountable at some point. It is irrelevant what their interpretation of liberation is. There is simply no justification for the human cost of the most ‘noble’ of causes.