Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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PEARL: Attacks Against Sri Lanka's Minority

Action Alert by PEARL, April 26, 2006


Genocidal attacks against Sri Lanka’s minority

Sri Lanka’s precarious ceasefire has slipped irrevocably to open bombings on the Tamil minority. Observers of Sri Lanka’s crisis are witnessing a systematic campaign of violence against its Tamil minority, which has continued unabated for the last two weeks, culminating in the most recent indiscriminate bombings on the Tamil people.

Sri Lanka Air Force jets have bombed Tamil villages in Trincomalee and Muttur districts, with absolutely no warning to the civilians. These actions have gravely violated international law, which mandates a formal declaration of war prior to besieging a populace. Additionally, civilian casualties are required to be minimized – not deliberately targeted as Tamils have been in the last few days.

There have also been reports about multibarrel heavy artillery attacks on the Tamil people, in addition to Sri Lanka Navy attack boats circling areas under Tamil control. This systematic intimidation and ongoing onslaught follows a disturbing pattern of attacks on unarmed Tamil people.

These bombings are in retaliation for an alleged Tamil Tiger attack on Lt. General Sarath Fonseka.

As a preview to this bombing campaign, in the last two weeks, over 62 innocent civilians have been brutally murdered, and each day witnesses further slayings. As members of the international community, we are concerned not only about the scale of the killings thus far, but also about the systematic brutality of the violence. Sinhala mobs organized within minutes of the outbreak of violence and stormed the streets, burning and looting Tamil homes and businesses, and massacring any Tamils they found along the way:

A 60-year old woman was dragged from a temple and stabbed to death outside. A young woman from Palaiooththu went to pay a bill at a shop, and was killed and thrown onto a burning pyre. A Tamil couple was dragged off their motorcycle and mutilated by machetes. Organized groups stopped cars at checkpoints and beat up Tamils they found. Scores of Sinhala mobs armed with poles, knives, and machetes raged through the region, and attacks are still occurring, unrestrained by the Sri Lankan government. These widespread attacks reveal a systematic attempt at ethnic cleansing that has consumed the Tamil regions of Sri Lanka.

Conservative estimates from the BBC suggest at least 1,000 Tamil families have fled the Trincomalee region in fear. These refugees have reported that the government’s armed forces stood idly by and did nothing to quell the violence. 22 shops and 14 homes have been burned thus far, as the Sri Lankan police and Army allow the attacks to continue unabated.

Unfortunately, these recent attacks are not an isolated smear in Sri Lanka’s history. These attacks in Trincomalee are a flashback of the anti-Tamil ethnic cleansing of July 1983, when thousands of Tamils were mercilessly butchered, raped, and beaten by Sinhalese mobs, police, and army personnel. There have been genocidal attacks on Tamils in Sri Lanka every decade since the country’s independence in 1948.

The most recent attacks are not merely an outbreak of communal tension; they were fuelled and perpetuated by paramilitary troops operating in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province. The existence of these armed groups has been conclusively documented by the U.S. State Department, and the Scandinavian peace monitors in Sri Lanka have stated that these groups are operating with the willfully blind eye of the Sri Lankan government. These groups have contributed to the choking climate of fear Tamil people in Sri Lanka suffer, and gravely endanger the already-stalled peace process.

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly pledged to enforce Clause 1.8 of the Ceasefire Agreement which mandates disarming these paramilitary groups, but appears unwilling to enforce this vital clause to restore safety and stability to the lives of Tamils. Thus we are calling upon you to demand the Sri Lankan government prosecute those responsible for these genocidal crimes and to effectively disarm all paramilitary troops. We are calling upon you to demand the Sri Lankan government stop its bombing and shelling of civilian areas.

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