Submission to OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL)
Posted on November 4th, 2014

By Civil Organizations in AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

The membership of our Organizations consist exclusively of New Zealand citizens and residents of Sri Lankan origin and have been representing their interests locally and internationally during a period spanning the last 25 years or so. Although our objectives are varied, we in unison agree that Sri Lanka should unite as one nation irrespective of race, religion, linguistic or ethnic differences in order to emerge as a modern developed nation and achieve prosperity.

  1. Introduction

This submission is in response to the invitation extended by the OISL from individuals, organisations and governments to submit information and/or documentation on alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes allegedly perpetrated from 21 February 2002 until 15 November 2011 in Sri Lanka by either of the parties to the armed conflict.

The above time frame is co-terminal with the period selected by the LLRC (Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) for their investigation. However, we believe that the objectives of the two investigations are different to each other. LLRC mandate is to find out the lessons learnt from the events unfolded during the ceasefire and the final armed conflict which may be suited to its specific purposes. However, in our view, it is not justifiable to stipulate the same time frame to an international investigation of alleged violations of human rights and related crimes during a long drawn armed conflict. It could be interpreted as a partisan action by OHCHR on behalf of one party to the conflict.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), an international terrorist outfit that earned the sobriquet of the most ruthless gang of terrorists” were committing heinous crimes against innocent people in Sri Lanka continuously for about 20 years since 1983 and slowed down its open hostilities exactly on 21 February 2002 due to the ceasefire agreement.  Even a cursory glance at the list of crimes committed by LTTE is sufficient to realise the unfairness of the selection of this period.  It is highly unfair by the people who were subjected to atrocities and died at the hands of LTTE before 2002.

For the families of the people who died at the hands of LTTE before 21 February 2002 whose most basic human right – the right to life were blatantly violated; this exclusion is a gross denial of rights of equality before the law and an impingement on freedom of expression and amounts to discrimination

A brief list of crimes committed by LTTE is given at the end to highlight our point. Please note that it is just a short list of incidents selected randomly due to page restrictions. The complete list of crimes could be submitted if necessary.

However, we note that OISL’s indication that it may take into consideration any contextual and other relevant information that may fall outside this time frame in order to understand the events better. Our submission is not to highlight specific incidents but to apprise the OISL of the common feelings of the Sri Lankan people. Hence, we will not strictly adhere to a time frame.

We are in total agreement with the OHCHR definition that non-state groups exercising de-facto control over parts of a state’s territory must respect human rights obligations of persons in that territory”. By looking at the list of atrocities the LTTE has committed during the past 30 years outside their area of de-facto control, we firmly believe that they should also be included to bring justice to the victims of such acts.

Therefore, in our approach to the issue in question we have included the crimes executed against the civilian population in all parts of Sri Lanka.

  1. Background

We sincerely believe that the intention of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international organisations is to support the Sri Lankan nation to achieve unity and prosperity and to create an environment for all citizens to pursue their lives in peace.

The events under investigations are related to the so called ethnic conflict” in Sri Lanka which can be traced as far back as two thousand years. The historical chronicles are full of such information.  

If the UN and other international organizations have a genuine interest to create a peaceful environment and achieve a long lasting unity among all communities in Sri Lanka, they should foster a dialogue among all stakeholders without any outside interference. It may be a long process, but that is the only way. A piecemeal investigation like the present one will not achieve any meaningful result. Perhaps it may prove to be counterproductive and create more animosity among the communities jeopardising the reconciliation process unfolding in Sri Lanka which appears to be making progress, albeit rather slowly.   

Within the limited space allowed we would like to highlight some salient points in the Sri Lankan history where conflicts with foreign powers have been dealt with either militarily or by peaceful means. We wish to emphasise the point that the culture and psyche of the Sri Lankan people have been moulded by these historical events. Relegating these as mere history would be a colossal mistake leading to stupendous underestimation of the values upheld by the Sri Lankan nation with a recorded history spanning more than 2500 years.

Five centuries of European (Western) influence to change those value systems have failed so far and we commend that OISL should be mindful of such realities before arriving at conclusions. This fact has to be considered especially against the background of the regional composition of the countries that have been parties to these UN resolutions.

  1. Historical facts.
  • The main catalysts for ethnic issue in Sri Lanka were foreign invasions. They were from India, Portugal, Holland and Britain.
  • History of Sri Lanka is a summation of how the people in this island confronted foreign forces who invaded militarily, economically and/or spiritually.
  • Although military invasions have been resisted and eventually defeated, some spiritual interventions have been embraced and even nurtured.
  • Almost all military interventions have been recorded in great details and most of the facts have been confirmed by archaeologists and historians after extensive research.
  • “The first Dravidian attack on Ceylon recorded in the chronicles is said to have been led by Sena and Guttika, described as merchant mariners who dealt in horses from Sindu region of   India.  Another Dravidian leader, Elara, invaded the Island and captured power at Anuradhapura. Elara, who is said to have come from the Cola country (Coromandel Coast of India) had a reputation for impartial justice. He was vanquished in a battle by a prince called Dutthagamani from the Sinhalese royal house ruling over the south eastern part of the island in 161 B.C and brought the whole island under his rule. This battle has an extremely important place in the Sinhalese culture and even today has a magical power to unite the whole community.
  • The nation’s inherent respect for human rights is vividly illustrated in the way how the vanquished was treated by the winning Sinhala King Dutthagamani after the Battle of Vijithapura. The victorious Sinhala King ordered the Tamil King Elara’s dead body to be given the honours appropriate to a Chakravartin (Emperor) monarch and, after cremating the body with appropriate funeral rites, on the spot where the redoubtable warrior fell, he caused a monument ( Caitya) to be erected there. Moreover he ordained that all music must cease whenever anyone passed the monument, which injunction was honoured even seven hundred years afterwards when the historical chronicle Mahavamsa was written.
  • Nurtured by the long history and the stories of struggle for independence from foreign domination the majority Sri Lankan community would rise against and oppose any attempt to divide the country at any cost.
  • The kings and military leaders who have led the battles against the invaders are revered by the people and as national heroes. Any attempt to discredit or belittle them would not be taken lightly by the population and that fact should be taken seriously when during any investigations.
  • The Sri Lankans are aware that unlike Indian invaders, all three European invaders have deceived them by signing treaties at the beginning and breaching them in practice. Both Portuguese and Dutch wanted only a trade post, but ended up ruling the majority of the country for about 300 years between them. British came and signed an International Treaty between the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the People of Kandy. But the British Colonial Government did not observe the terms of this Treaty and when the Kandyan people rose up in protest in 1817, the uprising was ruthlessly and inhumanely crushed. All historical records point out that the British used a scorched earth policy including mass murder and genocide of innocent Sinhala civilians to crush this rebellion.
  • John Davy, in his work ” An Account of the Interior of Ceylon” gives a detailed account of the 1817 uprising and says ” The loss of the natives, killed in the field or executed, or that died of disease and famine can hardly be calculated; it was, probably ten times greater than ours, and may have amounted, perhaps, to 10,000. . When one considers this rebellion and its consequences, one almost regrets that we ever entered the Kandyan Country. Considering that the population of the Central Province in 1818-1820 was only 150,000, clearly this can be considered as genocide of unprecedented proportions”.
  • Governor Robert Brownrigg issued a gazette notification on 01 January 1818 condemning all 17 who rebelled against the British, termed them ‘traitors’, and confiscated their properties. They were declared ‘Rebels, Outlaws and Enemies of the British’. (It took over 180 years for the Sri Lankan Government to recognize them as ‘National Heroes’, who fought for the sovereignty of the country).
  • Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka ( Ceylon) on 15 November 1505. The reigning monarch at the time with his seat of Government in Kotte, allowed them to setup a trading post in Colombo when assured that their purpose was only trade. They gradually extended their authority in the country by intrigue, intimidation, treachery and deceit. After sometimes they made the Sinhala King their puppet and forced him to agree to be a vassal and pay tribute and later hand over the Kingdom to Portuguese.
  • It is said that every stage of the progress of Portuguese in Sri Lanka was marked by rapacity, bigotry, cruelty and an inhumanity unparalleled in the annals of any other European power. ( Most of the historical data on that era are in the two volumes  ” Ceylon the Portuguese Era”  written by Paul E Pieris, one of the eminent Sri Lankan historian. The principal source of information for his works was from  a Portuguese historian Fernao de Queyroz.)  The only “civilised way’ to regain the sovereignty of the country at that time was to fight a war, not because of the fault of Sri Lankans but because of the treachery and cruelty of the Portuguese. Several battles have been fought to regain sovereignty of the country from Portuguese and they appear to be similar to the battles in Sri Lanka between 1983 and 2009.

 It is no wonder the Sri Lankan people are reluctant to trust Europeans given the past misdeeds perpetrated by them. Sri Lankan history has ample evidences that the people of the island have trusted and treated the visitors whether they were Indians, Portuguese, Dutch or British with due respect. Treaties had been signed with good faith. Unfortunately, all visitors eventually became invaders and betrayed the trust of Sri Lankans. Given the fact that majority of the signatories to the recent UN Resolutions are European Nations, Sri Lankans cannot be blamed if they mistrust the intentions and out rightly reject these investigations.

  1. Recent Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

We have to emphasise that the recent ethnic conflict has many facets. Whatever differences we may have in between different ethnic groups, we do not oppose the process of negotiation. However, efforts to force a solution by an armed struggle would not be tolerated by anyone.

Some relevant facts:

  • Although started as an ethnic conflict, it clearly transformed into a separatist war to divide the country and create a separate state.
  • Under British rule, the first members of the 1833 Legislative Council were one from each community: One Sinhalese, One Tamil and One Burgher. ( At that time there was no claim for a separate state from Tamil leaders.)
  • Donoughmore Reforms in 1920s recommended universal franchise. (Tamil leaders opposed it and insisted on elections on communal basis. However, there was no claim for a separate state.)
  • At Soulbury Commission sittings in 1945 the Tamil Leaders demanded 50-50 scheme which was rejected by the Commission. (Again, there was no claim for separate State.)
  • One section of the Tamil leaders accepted the decision of the Soulbury Commission; The leader of the Tamil party joined the Sinhalese and others. However, the deputy leader SJV Chelvanayakam opted to campaign for a federal state.
  • One of the main demands at the time of independence was to grant Sri Lanka citizenship to the Tamil estate workers of Indian origin (indentured South Indian Labour), which was amicably negotiated and settled on a staggered basis with India to the satisfaction of all.
  • In late 1970s the Tamil leaders started claiming a state of Tamil Eelam alleged to be in existence in 13th century. Sinhalese vehemently opposed and claimed it was baseless.
  • In 1980’s LTTE declared the launch of armed struggle to set up a Tamil Eelam.
  • Since 1983, LTTE carried out barbaric acts of violence throughout the Island by attacking villages, unarmed farmers, Buddhist priests, sacred shrines of Buddhist faith, economic targets and murdered a large number of Tamil and Sinhala Politicians and civilian and religious persons. Suicide bombers killed one elected Head of State (President), maimed another elected President in office and killed a number of Cabinet Ministers from both Sinhala and Tamil communities.
  • Government’s 1985 Talks with all the Tamil parties held in Thimpu, Bhutan. Then LTTE came up with more demands such as Traditional Homelands of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
  • In 1987, Indo-Lanka Peace Accord signed and more political powers were granted to provinces.
  • None of the above stopped the violence. Several rounds of talks started with LTTE by successive Sri Lankan Government with no avail. LTTE continued with their effort to carve out a separate state within the island by an arms struggle. They just used the peace talks to get themselves armed.
  • In 2002 a ceasefire agreement was reached with LTTE but it surreptitiously used to get them armed for a bigger assault. The report of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission ruled that LTTE has violated the agreement on 3827 occasions with in five years. ( The Official Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Report 2002-2008)
  • In 2006, the Sri Lankan Government had no other option but to take LTTE head on to bring about a stop the violent terrorist activities including large scale killings committed by them.
  • That ended on 19 May 2009 with the defeat of LTTE after the ” Battle of Pudumatalan”.
  • The elusive peace finally dawned on Sri Lanka. All economic and social indicators now show that all corners of Sri Lanka are cruising along the path of development. The Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka have openly declared that they have abandoned the idea of Eelam.
  • Reconciliation is the dream of all communities living in Sri Lanka now.
  1. Epilogue

After nearly thirty years of unrest there is no doubt that all sections of the Sri Lankan population are now enjoying a peaceful life. Gone are the days when people set out from their homes in the morning not knowing whether they will be able to return home to their loved ones due to the atrocities of LTTE.

Just like in the history, people of all communities are praising the leaders and the armed forces for bringing peace to their lives and restoring their right to life and saving their beloved motherland from the threats of a division and separation on ethnic lines.

Strangely enough, it is the first time in the long history of Sri Lanka, an international body is trying to investigate the violation of human rights during a conflict emanating from an act of armed terrorism. We strongly hold the view that if such an exercise is deemed to be required, it should benefit all stake holders. If by any chance it is a partisan exercise to appease a section of the international community, the repercussions will be disastrous. People will lose their confidence on the system of justice and that will encourage the violators of human rights to go berserk. Therefore, we commend that the investigators should consider such eventualities that may arise out of this exercise.

The lists of atrocities at the end of this submission will give an indication how the LTTE has violated one of the most valuable human rights, the Right to Life, for thirty years. The fact that the disappearance of violence and killings after the end of the Battle of Pudumatalan” gives an indication how the disappearance of LTTE has helped to restore the human right, the Right to Life”

Even at the expense of repetition we would like to emphasize that the culture and religions of the Sri Lankan people are interwoven with the history of the country. Historical background has a heavy impact on the culture and psyche of the Sri Lankan society irrespective of their race and religion.

At the end of the world war two, when countries assembled in San Francisco to punish Japan, Sri Lanka stood up and urged the big powers to forget the past and treat Japan as one of us. Even after the lapse of 67 years the sentiment expressed by Sri Lanka reverberates. When the present Prime Minister of Japan visited Sri Lanka a few weeks ago, he reminded the world what Japan owes Sri Lanka.

We believe that Sri Lanka should reiterate that sentiment and remind the United Nations that after the uprisings in Sri Lanka in 1971 and 1989 tens of thousands of youth were rehabilitated and released to the community. All have become low abiding citizens of Sri Lanka and have contributed immensely to the development of the country.

During the last five years, after the end of war in 2009, Sri Lanka has rehabilitated more than 500 child soldiers and nearly 11,000 LTTE cadres and released them to the society.  There is no doubt that the reconciliation effort would also be enhanced by such initiatives. Sri Lanka has demonstrated such qualities in their society to the world as early as 161 B.C. and has continued until now. United Nations also must find a suitable methodology to treat and rehabilitate the people involved in conflicts.

Engaging with the people on any possible violations of human rights, work with them and educate them is more effective than investigations with questionable intentions.

Prepared By

Mahinda Attanayake 

President – New Zealand Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka (SPURNZ)

 Ananda Weerasinghe

Editorial Committee – New Zealand Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka (SPURNZ)

 

Some of the attacks carried out by LTTE on civilian targets ( Selected randomly)
Serial No: Date Location Killed Wounded Description
1 14/05/1985 Sri Maha BodhiyaAnuradhapura 120 85 LTTE massacred Buddhist devotees at the Sri Maha Bodhiya
2 11/06/1986 Trincomalee 22 75 Killing of a large group of people in a bomb  explosion in a bus at Inner Harbour Road – Trincomalee
3 22/07/1986 Mamaduwa – Vavuniya 32 2 Terrorists exploded a landmine on a civilian bus
4 17/04/1987 Habarana – Trincomalee 127 44 LTTE massacred 96 civilians and 31 SF personnel who were travelling in a passenger bus
5 21/04/1987 Central Bus stand -Pettah, Colombo 106 295 The LTTE exploded a car bomb at the Pettah Bus Stand
6 02/06/1987 Aranthalawa – Ampara 35 14 Massacre of 31 Buddhist Priests  and 04 civilians
7 06/10/1987 Valachchenai – Batticaloa 40   0 LTTE set fire to Batticaloa mail train
8 07/10/1987 Lahugala – PotuvilAmpara 30 0 The LTTE killed 30 civilians travelling in a passenger bus from Moneragala to Potuvil
9 19/10/1987 Kalkudha  – Batticaloa 40 24 LTTE  exploded a landmine
10 09/11/1987 Maradana – Colombo 23 106 Vehicle bomb explosion opposite Zahira College
11 01/05/1988 Sittaru / Kantalai – Trincomalee 26 35 Terrorists exploded a landmine on a civilian bus
12 14/11/1988 Peniketiyawa -Trincomalee 28 2 Terrorists ambushed a civilian bus
13 13/04/1989 Centre Road – Trincomalee 51 43 A car bomb explosion
14 03/08/1990 Kathankudy – Batticaloa 147 70 Terrorists massacred Muslim devotees at a Mosque
15 06/08/1990 Ampara  area 34 0 Terrorists killed civilians working in a paddy field
16 10/04/1992 Ampara 28 36 A bomb exploded in a private bus which was parked at the Ampara bus stand
17 24/10/1994 Thotalanga Junction – Colombo 54 72 A suicide bomb explosion
18 07/08/1995 Independence Square -Colombo 23 40 A suicide cadre pushing a cart fixed with a bomb exploded it at the gate of the Ministerial office of the Western Province Chief Minister
19 31/01/1996 Colombo 80 1200 A large group of people were killed in a bomb explosion in front of the Central Bank
20 24/07/1996 Dehiwala – Colombo 57 356 Bomb explosion on the Alutgama train at Dehiwala station
21 05/03/1998 Maradana – Colombo 36 270 Vehicle bomb explosion near Maradana Police Station
22 29/09/1998 Jaffna 54 0 LTTE attack on a passenger aircraft belonging to Lion Air Flight killing 54 civilians including the crew
23 20/11/1999 Madhu Church Complex – Mannar 38 66 Terrorists fired small arms and mortars on the Madhu Church Complex
24 07/06/2000 Ratmalana – Colombo 24 60 A large group of people were killed in a LTTE suicide mission
25 02/10/2000 Mutur – Trincomalee 27 46 A suicide bomber riding a bicycle strapped with explosives drove into a three wheeler carrying Mr.Mohamad Latiff Baithullah , a PA candidate , killing a large group of people
26 15/06/2006 Kebitigollewa – Anuradhapura 64 87 LTTE has exploded 02 claymore mines targeting a passenger bus transporting approximately 160 passengers from villages of Viharahalmillewa, Halmillawetiya,Yakawewa and Talgaswewa to Kebitigollewa . In the explosion 01 soldier,15 Home Guards and 48 civilians were killed and 01 soldier and 86 civilians were injured.
27 16/01/2008 Okkampitiya – Moneragala 27 65 Blasting of a claymore mine follwed by shooting LTTE terrorists targeted a passenger bus which was plying from Okkampitiya to Buttala in the general area of Weliara.
28 25/04/2008 Piliyandala – Colombo 27 67 A bomb explosion using a remote control device took place inside a crowded passenger bus plying between Piliyandala and Kahapola.
29 06/06/2008 Katubedda – Colombo 23 28 Blasting of a claymore mine targeting a private passenger bus proceeding towards Mount Lavinia from Kottawa between Shilabimbaramaya Temple and the University of Moratuwa
30 06/10/2008 Anuradhapura 27 84 An LTTE male suicide bomber exploded himself killing Major General K J C Perera  RWP RSP VSP USP rcds Psc (Retd), leader of the opposition North central Provincial Council, and 26 other persons and injuring 84 persons during a function held to declare open the new  UNP office in Anuradhapura

 We have records of nearly 150 such attacks.  There were hundreds of attacks on economic targets and hundreds of premeditated assassinations. Details are available, but not included due to page restrictions.

4 Responses to “Submission to OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL)”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Today (11/4/14) international headlines write of the atrocities committed by ISIS on Kurdish children. I believe this massive coverage of an ongoing human rights violation is partly due to the United States leading a 40 nation coalition against ISIS in a military confrontation.

    It is then sad to read the list in this article and that these atrocities were NEVER given an international face by the world media. Sri Lanka is still paying terribly for being side lined by the world media. It is becoming apparent that human rights violations is heavily influenced by politics. the UNHRC to the Western world picks and chooses which human rights deserves world wide recognition and which should be swept under the rug.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    This is very good.

    The deadline to submit these has PASSED (31/10). Hope it reached UNHRC well before that.

    Revealing the submission AFTER the deadline is good because then Tamils cannot counter them.

  3. Raj Says:

    This is pretty good. We thank spurnz for taking action of this nature. I wonder how many other organizations, except TNA of course made submissions. I think Charles has done that.

  4. SA Kumar Says:

    The first cargo flight of relief goods from Pakistan for Sri Lanka’s landslide victims of Haldummulla arrived today !
    Hello India ( Gandhi Thesam) what happen to your cargo flight ???

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