Convergence of Patriots to Canberra
Posted on March 14th, 2014

Chanaka Bandarage

On Friday 7 March 2014 about 50 patriots from different parts of Australia converged to Canberra to meet with representatives of the UNHRC member countries located in Canberra.  The delegates met with nearly 30 such Missions located in Canberra.  They also met with the Office of Julie Bishop, Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs for Australia, a friend of Sri Lanka.

 The delegates had lengthy discussion with representatives of the UNHRC member countries and most representatives offered  signs that their countries may not vote in favour of the proposed US Resolution in Geneva this time.  It seems many member countries are not happy with the way the US is bringing forward such a Resolution that will not help Sri Lanka, but will damage Sri Lanka.  The proposed Resolution will be an impediment to Sri Lanka’s economic progress, unitary status  (sovereignty)  and ethnic reconciliation.

 At the discussions, a Petition was handed to the representatives of the UNHRC member countries and that of Ms Bishop’s Office and representatives of the US/UK , Indian and Canadian Governments.  Below, please find a copy of the said Petition:

____

 7 March 2014

   UPCOMING US SPONSORED UNHRC RESOLUTION AGAINST SRI LANKA

 Dear Your Excellency

 PREAMBLE

We, the peace loving Australians of Sri Lankan origin, wish to register our concerns with your government through Your Excellency, in regards to the proposed US Resolution against Sri Lanka at the March sessions of the UNHRC.  The US is seeking a probe into the human rights violations allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan security forces, in the last stages of the over three decades of long war in Sri Lanka conducted by the Sri Lankan Government against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) -a UN designated international group (under the UN Resolution 1373 of 2002).  It is disappointing that such a Resolution will be brought forth by the US when Sri Lanka has done everything possible to restore normalcy to those who were affected (mainly Sri Lanka’s Tamil population) from Tamil Tiger terrorism.

 THREE DECADES OF TAMIL TIGER TERRORISM

In Sri Lanka, for over 30 years, the Tamil Tigers bombed, killed and maimed people and committed other horrendous crimes. During the period of Tamil terrorism, Sri Lankans hardly had a day of peace, having to suffer terrible carnage at the hands of Tamil Tigers.  Hundreds and thousands of innocent Sri Lankans died due to Tamil Tiger terror and many thousands were maimed. Husbands and wives did not travel together in the same train compartment (they travelled in separate compartments) due to the fear that the train may be bombed (a recurring occurrence at the time).  They knew at least one of them should live to provide for the children.

 In 2009, the Tamil Tigers were successfully defeated by the Sri Lankan security forces, under the leadership of the President, HE, Mahinda Rajapaksa, with overwhelming support from the peace loving citizens of all communities of Sri Lanka. 

 It is indeed an achievement without any parallel where 21 million of Sri Lankans were liberated from the yoke of the Tamil Tiger terror.  The Tamil Tigers held the country to ransom for many years. The whole world witnessed on electronic media how nearly 300,000 Tamils ran towards the Sri Lankan forces seeking shelter and protection; after freeing themselves from the LTTE.

 The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in their publication dated 10 January 2008, under the title “Taming the Tamil Tigers’ identified Tamil Tigers as the most dangerous and deadliest extremists among all of the terrorist groups in the world.  The Tamil Tigers invented the suicide belt, used women in suicide attacks and extensively used child soldiers. All the LTTE cadres wore a cyanide capsule around their neck.  The LTTE launched many civilian suicide attacks ” frequent bombings in Colombo and other major cities, attacked Sinhalese villages in the North and the East where they raped women and killed infants.  They assassinated politicians (including scores of Tamils, Government ministers, a Sri  Lankan President and the then Indian Prime Minister). They also committed other forms of crimes. such as, armed robberies, human trafficking, drug peddling and money laundering.

 The Tamil Tigers had fund raising organisations established throughout the world, especially in the West.  Although the US, UK,  EU, Canada, India, Malaysia and several other countries proscribed the Tigers (Australia made a limited listing of them under the Charter of the United Nations Act), it is well known that displaced LTTE members, Tamil separatists and their sympathisers, continued with fund raising, and used those funds to buy arms/ammunitions and war equipment to continue with its brutal war against Sri Lanka. 

 Now after the war,  expatriate Tamil separatists, Tamil separatist sympathisers and their cohorts have started another war (by pen) ” to exert pressure on politicians and intellectuals in their respective domiciled countries to garner support to achieve their final goal of carving out a separate, racist state exclusively for the Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka, the ‘Tamil Eelam’.  It is estimated Tamils constitute less than 14%, of Sri Lanka’s total population, but they claim more than 1/3  of Sri Lanka’s landmass and ¾ of the coastal area.  In Sri Lanka, majority of the Tamils live outside of the claimed area ” it is believed that in Greater Colombo, at least 40% of the population is Tamil.

 ADDRESSING ACCOUNTABILITY

In the aftermath of the LTTE military defeat a key allegation made against Sri Lanka was that there were large scale Tamil civilian deaths by the Army during the last stages of the war. The Government correctly refused the accusations and requested those who made the accusations to provide them with particulars. 

 During last stages of the war the Government soldiers refrained from firing at the ‘No Fire Zone’, fearing that the civilians may be harmed.  But, Tamil Tigers continued to shell at the Army, this resulted in many soldiers being killed ” effectively they sacrificed their lives to save the lives of the Tamil civilians.  The Tigers shelled and fired at the civilians who freed themselves from their captivity.  The war finally ended on 19 May 2009 after the terrorist leader, Prabhakaran was killed that day (the ‘final war’ was started in March 2007).  Prior to its Northern operation, the Sri Lankan Forces successfully rescued thousands of civilians from the East with minimal collateral damages.  The security forces adopted the same tactic when it came to rescuing civilians in the North.

 During the war, according to the UN spokesman in Colombo of the time, Mr Gordon Weiss the dead civilian number was only about 7,000 (he gave these numbers in about March/April 2009), the Sri Lankan Government at that time rejected that high number.  Mr Weiss was asked to leave the country.

 About 9 months after the war, there were claims, (mainly by Mr Weiss) that the dead civilian number was much higher ” about 40,000. In 2011, the UN Secretary General’s advisory panel-‘Darusman’ alleged that a similar number may have been killed.  When questioned at his book launch in Melbourne in October 2010, Mr Weiss was unable to properly answer how his own 7,000 figure had increased to 40,000.  Under intent questioning, Mr Weiss stated that the dead number may have been between 10,000 ” 40,000, he failed to explain properly how he arrived at different figures at different times. 

 Thus, after end of the war, there had been accusations against the Sri Lankan government of gross civilian deaths (something that was not raised during the time of the war, including by India), but no one had been able to say how such a number (eg 40,000) had come to be ” who were the dead people (their names, addresses, or at least who are their  living relatives), where were the dead corpses buried (the ‘No Fire Zone’ was less than a 3 sq. km area).  Documentary videos prepared by a British TV station (Channel 4) made horrendous accusations of war crimes against Sri Lanka but it later emerged that authenticity of the claims made in the documentaries was highly dubious.  It became obvious that Channel 4 had deliberately concealed important information from its viewers, allegedly used edited videos to produce the documentaries.  Channel 4 stated that the original videos provided to them were taken using mobile phones by those who were in the battlefront.  Expert technical analysis show that some of the videos have been made using sophisticated video cameras that have zoom lenses.  Mobile phone cameras do not have zoom lenses.  On 27 February 2014 Lord Nesby stated in the British Parliament (House of Lords) that 2 people who appeared in a Channel 4 video had admitted that they were  paid by Tamil Tigers.  It is a well-known fact that Channel 4 is highly biased against Sri Lanka.  The Sri Lankan Government produced a series of documentaries ‘Lies Agreed Upon’ which correctly showed the dubious nature of the Channel 4 documentaries.

 As stated before, all those who have made allegations of horrendous war crimes atrocities against Sri Lanka have failed to articulate the sources of their information, details of the alleged incidents including names of the alleged victims or their relatives and any witnesses etc.  Even the Darusman Report (UN) did not provide such information and when questioned the UN panel refused to disclose the evidence that it allegedly have.  This placed the Sri Lankan government in a very difficult position ” it very much wanted to investigate the allegations made against it, but those who made the allegations apart from rhetoric, would not provide any information/evidence about them.  The Government appointed a Commission of Enquiry – Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC); only five incidents of civilian deaths were complained to the Commission.  We believe they are now being investigated under the Government’s ‘National Plan of Action’.

 The Sri Lanka’s critics have completely ignored independent and reliable reports/sources such as the Sri Lankan Census and Statistics Department’s Report which confirmed that the number of deaths were around 7,000 up to the end of May 2009; they included the dead LTTE cadres.  In the last stages of the war, thousands of Tamil Tigers were killed by the Sri Lankan government forces (to camouflage the Army, some of them wore civilian attire).  Sri Lankan forces were killed by the Tamil Tigers and Northern civilians died of non war related causes; so deaths did occur in the war areas. But, the Sri Lankan Army did not intentionally or recklessly kill Tamil civilians.

 The Sri Lankan Government continues to request those who make the blatant allegations against it to provide them with information/evidence of the alleged atrocities.  But, no one has come forward to do so (apart from the 5 complaints to the LLRC), thus, as stated before it is currently placed in a precarious situation..

 PROGRESS IN THE RECONCILIATION PROCESS IN SRI LANKA

As mentioned before, soon after the conclusion of terrorism in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government appointed the  LLRC and the Government did all it could do to implement its recommendations (the National Plan of Action). The areas of action taken by the Government, apart from the massive infrastructure development (over US$ 3 billion worth of projects in the North alone), included resettlement of people, providing compensation/relief to people and implementing policies of  reconciliation.

A key progress was achieved via restoration of the democratic rights of the people by conducting elections in the areas affected by the war (North and the East), appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into the alleged disappearances (in co-operation with the ICRC) and conduct of a Census on deaths/injuries to civilians and property damages due to the war.  These achievements are further described below.

The status as at December 2013 of the Government’s progressive actions in the North in brief are as follows (the statistics provided hereunder are authentic and can be substantiated).

a)       Tracing of missing/disappeared persons:

A survey on the tracing of missing/disappeared persons, especially those who were forcibly abducted by the LTTE, was completed with the corporation of the Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) Unit of the UNICEF.

The President, HE Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Commission to investigate cases of missing persons in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, particularly those who allegedly went missing during and after the war. The Commission has been given the authority to conduct inquires and investigations as necessary, and submit a report to the President. The President stressed the necessity to identify the persons responsible in cases where abductions or disappearances were found to have taken place and to take legal action where necessary.

It is noted that  well over 100,000 Tamil citizens left Sri Lanka between 2007-2013, seeking refugee status in Canada, Europe, Australia, India and some using illegal means (boat people). It has been reported that these people have also been included in the ‘missing’ persons’ lists by those who have prepared such lists.  It is estimated that about 7,000 Tamils travelled to Australia alone in boats in the past 5 years.

b)      Rehabilitation of the Ex-LTTE cadres:

Out of the total of about 12,000 ex-LTTE cadres surrendered/captured, 97% have already been rehabilitated and released to the society. A further 2% is currently under rehabilitation. This gesture alone shows that the Government is keen on rehabilitation rather than retribution.  This also rebuts the accusation that the Government deliberately killed Tamil civilians; if wanted, it could have easily killed those captured LTTE cadres.

c)      Resettlement of IDPs:

Out of the total of 224,432 Tamil families who were residing in temporary accommodation 96.9% have already been resettled.  There are 22,134 Muslims registered for resettlement in the Northern Province and are in the process of being resettled. Out of the 100,000 Sinhalese displaced from the Northern province since early 1980s, about 90% are still living in areas outside of the Northern Province. 

d)    Re-establishing of democracy:

Presidential, Parliamentary, Local Government and Provincial Council elections were held since the eradication of terrorism. A Tamil political party (TNA) won the election and are currently governing the Northern province.

e)   Land released by Security Forces and the reduction of troops:

Out of the 34.561 acres of private lands occupied by the security forces, 78% has already been released. The army battalions have been reduced from 152 to 104 since May 2009.  These numbers continue to come down.

f)     Demining

According to the data available up to September 2013, only 4.2% of land is yet to be cleared.

g)   LLRC

 Some of the recommendations of the LLRC require an evolving/progressive consensus among the ethnic, religious, regional and political diversity of the nation, the Government has commenced grassroot level activities to achieve these. 

 AN APPEAL TO YOUR EXCELLENCY

Considering the gravity and enormity of the conflict, we say that the goal for full reconciliation cannot be achieved within a short period of time.  Quick fixes and ad hoc policies in the guise of resolving problems  (especially as enunciated by powerful external elements) will in reality acerbate the problems.  All solutions to the conflict must arise within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, and they  must be authentic, indigenous and acceptable to all peoples of Sri Lanka.

 Since ending the war, Sri Lanka has taken great strides to address concerns raised by the international community.  Sri Lanka has always been willing and able to listen to the international critique and has adjusted its policies accordingly.  Given that Sri Lanka has co-operated well with the international community and has taken genuine attempts to redress grievances of the minority Tamils, Sri Lanka should not be subjected to harsh measures by the UNHRC member nations in March this year.  There is absolutely no requirement to conduct an international investigation to the alleged civilian deaths/human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Demanding an enquiry only to investigate the conduct of the war in the last stages of the war has no rational.  What about the atrocities committed by the LTTE and the alleged atrocities committed by an occupying foreign Army during the 30+ years of the war?  Why should those atrocities go un-investigated?

 It is only the wearer who knows wherein the shoe that pinches. In Sri Lanka, it is its people who have the tragic war experiences.  It is Sri Lankans who know what it meant to live under the clutches of brutal terrorism.  It is Sri Lankans who defeated terrorism using their own skills and resources (when Sri Lanka was winning the war in 2009, some powerful nations tried to stop it). It is Sri Lankans who should dictate the future pathway of their country, not outsiders,  who have little or no understanding of Sri Lanka.

The emergence of the new Sri Lanka that dawned after 19 May 2009 should change lives for all Sri Lankans for better.  True everything that happened in Sri Lanka after the war in the past 4 years may not be perfect, yet, Sri Lanka has moved forward.  Sri Lankans want to continue that forward march ” so that they can build a rich, harmonious, peaceful Sri Lanka for all Sri Lankans.  Already Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese and Burghers live like the children of one mother in Sri Lanka.  This ‘settled peace’ must not be disturbed.

Adverse outside forces should not be allowed to come and interfere with the intricate way of Sri Lankan life.  Again, they should not be allowed to destroy Sri Lanka’s recent gains after winning of the war.  The proposed US Resolution should be looked in that perspective. It is a reckless attempt to unduly interfere into Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and a measure to stop its forward march.  It is important to note Australia’s excellent policy on Sri Lanka – engage, not isolate/punish Sri Lanka.

The best way to assist Sri Lanka is to provide her with financial, moral and other assistance. And include Sri Lanka fully in world affairs. At the Tokyo Summit in 2002, the international community pledged to assist Sri Lanka with a rebuilding fund (like the post-World War II ‘Marshal Plan’) worth over $US 4.5 billion.  These pledges were not met with. After the war, Sri Lanka borrowed monies (about US$ 7-8 billion) at high interest rates. Most of the monies were used to build new infrastructure for their Tamil brethren in the North and East.  Many large scale infrastructure projects are in the pipeline.

In the recent past, the Sri Lankan Government conducted negotiations with South Africa and the two countries agreed to work together to resolve the outstanding issues, including the West’s demand to establish an international Commission of Enquiry to investigate the alleged war crimes.  We say that the international community must give this new initiative a chance to succeed  than giving deference to the proposed US Resolution.

Before casting your country’s valuable vote at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva in March 2014, we humbly request you to carefully consider all the factors outlined herein.  A vote in favour of the US Resolution (ie against Sri Lanka) or an absent vote will have the huge impact of derailing all the gains achieved after winning the most brutal, recent civil war of the world.  The US Resolution will damage the substantial achievements that Sri Lanka has gained over the past 4+ years especially in relation to ethnic reconciliation,  ethnic harmony and economic development.  Even a section of Senators within the US are opposed to the US Resolution.

The US Resolution will polarise the Sinhalese and Tamil communities, not unite them.  Sri Lankans are determined to make their beautiful country ‘the Wonder of Asia’; we ask you to cast your country’s vote against the US Resolution (ie vote in favour of Sri Lanka) in Geneva, so that this dream of the 21 million Sri Lankans will become a reality. Again, please note that a vote in favour of the US Resolution or abstaining from voting means sending Sri Lanka backwards.

 We kindly ask you to forward this Petition to your foreign office and the UNHRC post in Geneva.

 We thank you very much.

1)            Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka VIC

2)            Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka-NSW

3)            Australian Federation of Sri Lankan Associations-NSW

4)            Sri Lanka Support Group-ACT and Global  

5)            Sinhala Cultural Association of Australia Inc ACT

6)            United Australians of Sri Lankan  Organizations- VIC

7)            Sri Lankans Against Terrorism NSW

8)            Veera Parakramabahu Foundation NSW

9)            Sinhala Cultural and Community Services Foundation Inc VIC

10)          Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka-QLD

11)          Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka- WA

12)          Only One Lanka, ACT

 ps – The 10 point draft Resolution presented by the US this week is very different to what the US had  previously proposed.  This shows that the US itself is unsure about the allegations of human rights violations that it is making against Sri Lanka.  If the situation in Sri Lanka is so bad as stressed by the US previously, why is it that the US now not demanding an international investigation into the alleged atrocities?

 The proposed Resolutions 4 and 5 deal with domestic incidents that occurred in Sri Lanka (alleged attacks on places of religious worship and the ‘Weliweriya incident’ where a demonstrator was shot dead by the security forces).  These two incidents are not  serious enough  to warrant  an UNHRC intervention.  Such incidents frequently take place in many countries around the world. Many Muslim and sometimes Buddhist places of worship have been attacked in Western Europe in the past few years. 

 The proposed Resolution 6 is a request that the Sri Lanka government implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  Sri Lanka has abided by the 13th Amendment thus far. In any case this is  a Constitutional issue  of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Government has been provided guidance in this regard by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, the government is bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling.  The UNHRC does not have the jurisdiction to make demands about Sri Lanka’s  constitutional matters.  It is strange that the Resolution 6 only refers to the Northern Provincial Council, there are 7 other Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka, the 13th amendment applies to all of them. Does this mean that the UNHRC discriminates against the people of other 7 provinces?  The intention of the proposed Resolution 6 is to make Sri Lanka ungovernable. 

 The Proposed Resolutions 7 and 8 create an obligation on the part of Sri Lanka to conduct a local investigation into the alleged  violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka and to work in close co-operation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human  Rights (the Resolution does not identify the 2nd party ” it seems like the LTTE.  Such bad drafting shows that the US itself is not serious about its own Resolution),.  Sri Lanka has clearly shown that the Human Rights Commissioner, is extremely biased against Sri Lanka. In this Petition, we have clearly  articulated that these two  Resolutions (7 and 8) are totally unwarranted.

 We again humbly request you not to support the proposed US Resolution. It is designed to create enormous, untold problems to Sri Lanka. Thank you.

 Contac Person:

Chanaka Bandarage, Sri Lanka Support Group, GPO Box 3004, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia. , [email protected]

_____                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  End of Petition

                            (to suit individual needs, slightly different versions were handed to different countries)

2 Responses to “Convergence of Patriots to Canberra”

  1. Marco Says:

    I find it extra-ordinary that the likes of Ananthi Sasitharan was able to make a speech (however bad it was) at the floor of the UNHRC in Geneva open to NGO’s and interested parties.
    I wondered if your representations could have been more effective in the “heart” and sought an audience on the floor like AS. I’m aware of the cost constraints placed upon by GOSL.
    It baffles me that we keep chasing the tail.

  2. charithsls Says:

    We all patriotic Lankans should hail the efforts of this group to protect our country. It is an excellent move to meet all the UNHRC member country representatives by a powerful expatriate group & I wonder why such meetings were not planned in a cohesive way by other expatriate groups in the West & America. These will have a more telling effect than the erratic protests coming from Sri Lanka. Hope Chanaka & the group will liaise with expatriates in other countries to organise similar meetings in those countries as well .

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