Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Letter to Co-Chairs from Association of Tamil Americans

January 2, 2006.

Co- Chair for Norway – via  Hon  Ambassador for Norway, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Co- Chair for the European Union – via  Hon. Ambassador for the EU, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Co- Chair for Japan – via  Hon. Ambassador for Japan, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Co- chair for the USA – via Hon. Ambassador for the USA, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Co Chairs’ Brussels statement of 12/19/05

We are submitting this memorandum jointly with several other concerned organizations, which are listed at the end.

We welcome the Co- Chairs’ call for an immediate meeting of the Government and LTTE to review the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA), and your declaration of strong support for Norway’s role as Facilitator. We also welcome your call, yet again, for the Government to disarm para- militaries, as required by the CFA. It is past time to declare that further inaction will trigger serious consequences. It is evident that there has been for several months a concerted plan by paramilitaries and military intelligence to assassinate Tamil leaders from the East.

Overall, however, the Statement shows a pronounced  bias in favor of the Government. It seemingly reflects more the Co- Chairs’ role as part of the so- called “international safety net,” created jointly by the Wickremasinghe Government and some important aid Donors, more to promote  their mutual interests than a just and durable peace based on negotiations between the Government and LTTE as equal partners, with Norway as Facilitator, as envisaged in the CFA. It is also regrettable that Norway, the Facilitator, was a party to such an unbalanced Statement.

The Statement also reflects a willful misreading of the Tamil people’s deep seated feelings about the intolerable and odious status quo in the North East. The status quo involves not only virtually no relief, despite the CFA, from suffering and displacements caused by the war and tsunami, but also no relief from the harassments and indignities, and continued  occupation of tens of thousands of homes, schools and temples, in direct violation of the CFA, at the hands of the almost entirely Sinhala military.   

The Co- Chairs seem to accept the Government’s fantasy that the Tamil people’s ongoing demonstrations against the odious and open ended status quo, are simply an LTTE creation. This explains their unreal demand that the LTTE essentially enforce the status quo, under the Co- Chairs’ threat of “serious consequences.” It also explains their allegation that the successful Tamil boycott of the presidential election was “enforced” by LTTE, ignoring the long history of political maturity and activism of the Tamil people, especially in Jaffna, and a very broad acceptance of LTTE leadership, confirmed in the last parliamentary elections. The Tamil people have learned from bitter experience that, irrespective of which candidate is elected President, a political solution which meets their legitimate aspirations is not possible, within the framework of the present Constitution, especially if the winner had a minority of Sinhala votes.

In contrast, the Co- Chairs’ Statement has no mention of the threat to the peace process posed by the new President’s rejection of every key component of the peace process espoused by the Co- Chairs, including the Oslo declaration and PTOMS agreement about tsunami aid to the North East.

Inevitably, the Co- Chairs statement has been seen as a signal of their approval to the Government to use force to enforce the status quo. The  retaliatory attacks by the military on Tamil civilians is, in part, the result of this perception.

Unless the Co- Chairs take a firm stand against such tactics, which are a violation of human rights and international law, it will not be long before a full blown, old style “counter- insurgency” operation is in place in the North East as well as Colombo, under which in the recent past torture was pervasive and thousands of Tamil civilians were killed or disappeared under cover of Emergency Rule (as documented in US State Department reports).

The new army chief, hand picked by President Rajapakse, is well known in Jaffna as an hardline exponent of these tactics, having  served there earlier as area commander.

If the Co- Chairs are serious in their support of full implementation of the CFA, and in promoting a just negotiated solution, based on the core CFA principle of “equal partnership for peace,” they will need urgently to support the following:

1. Make clear to the Government that sanctions will be imposed, unless immediate steps are put in place to disarm para- militaries. Without significant Government action, it is unlikely that any progress can be achieved at a meeting between the Government and LTTE.

2. Also make clear that attacks on civilians by either side will not be tolerated, and will be met with sanctions. Unless such attacks are stopped, they will meet resistance, unlike in the past, and will likely result in renewed war in the North East.

3. In order to minimize the risk of violence between the military and civilians, and to restore homes, temples and schools to civilians as called for in the CFA, the military needs to be gradually withdrawn from civilian inhabited areas, beginning immediately with the areas around the Jaffna University campus.

4. Resume immediately local level meetings of the military and LTTE.

5. Demonstrate a better understanding of the existential problems facing the Tamil people in the North East and of their faith in the LTTE. The Co- Chairs should also avoid blatant acts of partisanship like their failure to condemn the murders of senior Tamil Parliamentarian Pararajasingham, and many other Tamil leaders and journalists like Kumar Ponnambalam, Sivaram, Kaushalyan, Nimalarajan, etc, even as they have been quick to condemn every alleged violation of the CFA by the LTTE. Ironically, many of these murders might well have been avoided if the Co- Chairs had taken a firm position with the Government on disarming of paramilitaries.

World Tamil Coordinating Committee – USA
Illankai Tamil sangam – USA
World Tamil Women Organization – USA
Federation of Tamil Association of North America (FeTNA) – USA
Center for Women’s Development and Rehabilitation – USATamil Heritage International - USA
Illankai Tamil sangam – Florida
World Tamil Organization – Illinois
Midwest Tamil sangam – Illinois
Ohio Tamil Association – Ohio
Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organization – California
Illankai Tamil sangam – California
Illankai Tamil sangam – Vancouver-Portland-Washington