Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Report to UN ECOSOC Subcommission on Human Rights

UNITED NATIONS
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Fifty-seventh session

04-08-2005

Agenda item 4 - Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Liberation welcomes the preliminary report of Sub-Commission member Mr. Marc Bossuyt on the issue of non-discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  While still early in his mandate, it is clear that this issue is of great importance.

Liberation wishes to draw the attention of Mr. Bossuyt and the Sub-Commission as a whole to the continued discrimination of the Economic, Social and Cultural rights of the Tamils living in the traditional Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, by the Sri Lankan government and the State armed forces.  In fact, this inhuman, provocative and pernicious conduct threatens to disrupt the ceasefire arranged by the International Facilitators.

As examples, Liberation points to two recent incidents. The spontaneous post-Tsunami relief offered by the International Community continues to remain blocked by the Sri Lankan state machinery from reaching the Tsunami victims living in the NorthEast of Sri Lanka, for the simple reason these victims do not belong to the majority Sinhala nation.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), a community-based volunteer institution dedicated to humanitarian relief efforts during the war and cease-fire periods in the NorthEast, was entrusted by the Tamil Diaspora and magnanimous individuals all over the world with contributions to address the immediate needs of the Tsunami victims.  Spreading its network of service units and dedicated volunteers throughout the NorthEast, the TRO was able to provide the Tsunami victims with immediate relief and much required basic needs, a service it still continues.

It is an irony that a major part of the large-scale Tsunami relief offered by the international community, including multi-national institutions and world governments at state level, continues to sit in government warehouses and state banks, far from the victims.  Although the US, the EU, Japan and Norway have recommended a joint mechanism action on relief work, the Government of Sri Lanka, fearing withdrawal of support of the extreme nationalist junior partners in its minority coalition, delayed action for six months.  And

Finally when when the Government relented to international pressure, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka acted, as has been the pattern over the last fifty years, in a discriminatory fashion, by blocking implementation of sections of the newly-signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding distribution of post-Tsunami relief, rendering most of it inoperative.

The attitude of the government and the extreme nationalist elements in the Sinhala community, the behaviour of the Supreme Court and the deliberate action on the part of the government to keep international dignitaries, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from visiting the Tsunami-affected NorthEast, appear to precipitate distancing of Tamil people, especially the Tsunami victims, from the Sinhala majority in the country.  It is indeed a pity, that a natural calamity that should have brought the two nations closer, has, on the contrary, driven a wider cleavage between them. 

Former United States President Bill Clinton was able to visit a town of the Eastern Province, but only under heavy government guard and only to those areas under
government control.

Secondly, Liberation wishes to point out the sudden eruption of tension between communities resulting from the placement of statues of the Buddha as a symbol of majority Sinhala Buddhist domination in the traditional homelands of the Tamils where Buddhism is hardly practiced.

Liberation stresses that the Sri Lankan state machinery has been encouraging with impunity over the last six decades a policy of directly and indirectly-sponsored colonisation in the NorthEast. After the statue of the Buddha was erected overnight, a round-the-clock armed guard has been put in place by the government.  A police/army outpost has been set up to guard the statue.  We expect a colony of Sinhala Buddhist settlers will soon be brought from Sinhala areas.  Tamil-speaking peasants living on the land for generations, will most likely seek to leave the area due to harassment by the armed forces and the new settlers. 

This settlement practice, essentially shelved during the two decades of war between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers, is being renewed during the cease-fire period. 

The erection of the statues of the Buddha in the Hindu or Christian areas of Trincomalee and the Batticaloa-Amparai districts within the last few months has caused fear and unease among the Tamil-speaking people who have demanded their removal.  There have been protests and demonstrations all over the traditional Tamil areas over the desecration of their social and cultural order.  Although the district court in Trincomalee ruled that the placing of the statue was unlawful, the government still continues with the armed protection of the statue, with complete disregard to the Court ruling and the feelings of the people of the area.

Bellicose posturing of extreme nationalist elements in the predominantly Sinhala areas, indecisive responses of the existing government, increased violence perpetrated by the state armed forces and paramilitary forces in the traditional Tamil homelands, and the shadow war the State has been waging on the Tamil people, indicate a decided deterioration of the situation.

We urge the Sub-Commission's Special Rapporteur on Non-discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to take these injustices into consideration as he further elaborates his
study. 

The Sub-Commission as a whole could prevail on the government of Sri Lanka to take steps to activate the post-Tsunami agreement (P-TOMS) quickly, in order to ameliorate the terrible condition in which the Tsunami victims are still suffering, and also to respect the economic, social and cultural rights of the Tamil people in their traditional homeland.

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Posted August 9, 2005