Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
34 Years of Emergency: 29 to Suppress Tamil Rights
TAMIL CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS - TCHR/CTDH
(Established in 1990)
Ref: GO7ER/PR/2005 7 September 2005
Out of 34 years of state of Emergency in Sri Lanka, 29 years have been used for suppressing the rights of Tamils
Since TCHR was established, we have maintained the policy of condemning all killings in any part of the world. TCHR has also always urged for impartial and independent inquiry into any killing, murder, assassination or other human rights violation.
In the recent past we have highlighted and condemned several cold-blood killings, including those of many members of civil society - prominent lawyer Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam (January 2000), journalists Mr. Richard de Soysa (February 1990), Mr. Mylvaganam Nirmalarajan (October 2000), Mr. Nadesan (May 2004) and Mr. Sivaram (May 2005) and former parliamentarian Mr. Chandra Nehru (February 2005) are a few of them. Most of the killings highlighted left ample evidence to trace the assassins, but until today have not had proper investigations, nor have any culprits been brought to book and punished.
The culprits of these political killings still remain in service unpunished and political killings continue with impunity.
As with the above-mentioned cases, we are concerned about the killing of the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was assassinated on 12 August 2005. The Colombo print media and various electronic media continue to publish various stories on the assassination of Kadirgamar. Some media even went to the extent of saying that, " Kadirgamar actually died of a heart attack while swimming in the pool and his death is being used by the government with ulterior motive as a political assassination," while another media said, "he was shot dead by someone close to him within his own house." It is obvious that many stories are fabricated, each with a different motive, and that only one story is true.
It can be said, however. that any loss of human life is more important than the cause of death. But to members of civil society and law enforcement agencies - the cause and the circumstances of death and the measures taken afterwards - are important in every loss of life.
TCHR strongly believes that the post-death measures taken regarding any political assassination are vitally important in order to establish the other factors. When we compare measures taken after Kadirgamar’s assassination, along with many other above-mentioned political killings, one can establish how the government of Sri Lanka and its law enforcement agencies acted soon after the death of Kadirgamar – Tamil youths were arrested, claims to have established the killers were made and the President declared a state of emergency.
The BBC World Service on 12 August, 2005 at the European time of 9.00pm, broadcast the news that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka had been shot and taken to hospital. At midnight the same station broadcast that Mr. Kadirgamar had passed away in the hospital and reported that police had arrested three people on suspicion.
As far as the political killings in Sri Lanka are concerned, it is well known to everyone, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial and Arbitrary Killings and international human rights organisations, that killings in Sri Lanka in which the government has been suspected of involvement, have neither been properly investigated nor have the culprits been brought to justice. When Kadirgamar was killed, immediate action was taken and much happened within hours of his death.
If the state of emergency is analysed in broader terms, the seriousness of it can be understood. What is a state of emergency? A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend certain normal functions of government, may work to alert citizens to alter their normal behaviours, or may order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending civil liberties. Such declarations usually come during a time of natural disaster, during periods of civil unrest, or following a declaration of war.
In other words, a "state of emergency is a period of exception from the normal applicability of Civil and Criminal law and of human rights norms."
During the 57 years since the independence (1948) of Ceylon, governments have used the "state of emergency" for nearly thirty-four years, as one of its weapons of rule, giving unlimited powers to its security forces. We wonder whether Sri Lanka has already entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of times a state of emergency has been declared.
Noteworthy periods of emergency rule in Sri Lanka :
Since independence, Sri Lanka has seen one coup d'etat by the military on 27 January 1962 and two class struggles by the Singhalese youths in the South (4 April 1971 & 1987-1989). In other words, if the declared state of emergency in Sri Lanka had been to prevent the fall of government to the insurrectionists - Sinhalese youth in the South and coup d'etat, it would have been only for a period of four to five years out of almost thirty-four years of emergency rule. The remaining twenty-nine years of state of emergency have been used in Sri Lanka to suppress "the right to self-determination" of the Tamil people.
The right to self-determination is a democratic right of peoples, accepted in international law, based on the International Covenants on Human Rights.
The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) also remains. However, the Cease-fire Agreement signed on 21 February 2002, article 2.12 prevents the security forces from carrying out search and arrests under this act.
Clearly, the culprits responsible for the killing of Kadirgamar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, should be brought to book. Does this mean that a state of emergency should be declared to investigate his killing?
Past experience has shown that the declaration of emergency in Sri Lanka paves the way for shocking increases in human rights violations committed by the security forces.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, visited Sri Lanka in 1996 and stated in his report :
The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, stated
According to the information received by TCHR since the (13 August) declaration of state of emergency in Sri Lanka,
It is well known that, whenever cordon and search operations are carried out by the law enforcement agencies in Sri Lanka, a quota system is maintained to arrest a certain number of innocent people, to be given as an account to their superior officer and to satisfy the government. After all, when state of emergency is declared, the law is in their hands.
During the last few months, Sri Lanka security forces have once again started to harass and arrest Tamils in various parts of Sri Lanka. In the meantime, the declaration of state of emergency indirectly shows that war has been declared in Sri Lanka.
TCHR and other human rights bodies have consistently condemned the severe human rights violations taking place under the cover of Emergency Regulations in Sri Lanka – a warning that serious contraventions of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law are taking place.
Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR/CTDH
9, rue des Peupliers - 95140 Garge les Gonesse - FRANCE
Contact person : S. V. Kirubaharan – General Secretary
Contact person : Deirdre McConnell – Director International Programme
TCHR-NETHERLANDS Tamil Centrum voor Mensenrechten- TCHR
Contact person : Sinniah Indiran
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TCHR-SWITZERLAND Tamilen Zentrum fur Mensenrechten - TCHR
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Posted September 13, 2005