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Current Political Killings and Human Rights Violations by the LTTE: An Appeal to the International Community

T.Sritharan EPRLF


The history of our struggle against the Sri Lankan State to achieve political rights for the Tamil people have passed through many phases. The nature of the violent conflict associated with that struggle has also changed over time. Killings and massacres of civilians by the state forces continued into the mid-1990s, but by the mid-1980s another form of violence had also entered the stage, with incalculable repercussions. Internecine fights, internal killings, targeted killings of civilians, and the resulting trauma devastated the community in a way no external force could do. Our whole community became trapped in violence. We the EPRLF faced the brunt of the violence and terror by the LTTE and lost most of our senior leadership and hundreds of our cadres.

In withstanding the terror of the LTTE we believed at times that the very methods it used against us were the only alternative left to us, if we chose to survive as a political organisation. We too committed violent acts for which we have already sought our community's forgiveness. We do so once again. The futility of this was soon brought home to us, but we were at the same time confronted with the stark reality of our people becoming trapped in a web of fascist control that the LTTE was imposing on Tamil society. Noble and moral options for individuals and the community were fast being sealed by pervasive terror. The repercussions were felt in our own movement. A small minority in our leadership guilty of corrupt practices and misappropriation of the movement's funds struck a deal and surrendered to the LTTE. Most of us who felt that we would be failing our people if we gave up the struggle for a democratic culture endeavoured to carry forward the message of democracy and decency with the extremely limited means left to us.

We hoped that the peace process facilitated by Norway with the support of international community would give the Tamil community a chance to assert themselves and decide their future. But such hopes have been shattered by continuous political killings, massive extortion exacted, forced recruitment of child soldiers and other actions of the LTTE. What remained of the social and political space in the community was closed. Killings of political opponents by the LTTE have reached an unprecedented intensity, varying from two a week to almost one a day.

Our experience since 2002 makes us wonder whether Norway is facilitating a peace process or overseeing the installation of a fascist order in the Tamil community. Every killing by the LTTE is another nail in the coffin of democracy.

The European Union, the US State Department, Canada, Japan, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a number of other concerned organisations have called upon the LTTE to stop the killings. To everyone’s dismay, these appeals have fallen on stone-deaf ears. Indeed, the killing rate has increased even as these appeals became more strident in their urgency. Every one expected that consolidating human rights and democracy would be an integral part of the peace process. But the LTTE has shown absolutely no understanding on this score. Instead, they cynically repeat that the killings are internal to the opposition itself. Although hundreds of complaints against the LTTE have been made to the SLMM and the Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities, both have justified their inaction by claiming a lack of proof, without actually trying to investigate.

Persons associated with democratic political activity that is critical of the LTTE's methods and agenda, ordinary Tamils, Muslims, Singhalese and intelligence personnel have all been grievously victimised during this peace process. It is true that in the short term at least the peace process has prevented a major outbreak of war. While this is welcome, the people at the very same time have been terrorised and traumatised by the daily incidence of killings, kidnappings and recruitment of child soldiers.

On child soldiers, a number of human rights organisations and UNICEF have expressed concerns and demanded a halt to this barbarous scandal in a community that has known and deserved far better. But not only does child recruitment persist, but parents and families refusing to give a child are harassed, terrorised and punished.

The democratic rights of the people, the rights to political and social dissent have been trampled upon. The Muslims and Singhalese living in the North-East as well as Tamil parties opposed to the LTTE, have suffered the loss of their basic rights to protest and to seek democratic remedies.

The ongoing killings in the North, East and the suburbs of Colombo are definite violations of the ceasefire agreement in which Norway was the key player. Norway remained silent for far too long. While we welcome Norway’s belated appeal to LTTE to halt the murders, these mere words should follow some meaningful sanctions to make it credible.

Section 1.2 of the ceasefire agreement categorised, killings, kidnappings and suicide attacks as violations of the agreement. The SLMM and the Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities have not achieved even an iota of success in checking these violations, which occur now on a daily basis. It is heartbreaking to watch. It is indeed long past the time when the international community should have acted decisively to check this scandal.

This obligation becomes all the more urgent given the fact that local organisations that have tried to prevent these violations have largely lost their ability to function. The continuing problem of child soldiers underlines the absolute urgency of this tragedy.

It is notable that although Ian Martin, a widely respected human rights advocate, was called in with much publicised and high expectations to lay a firm foundation for human rights in the peace process, he has been systematically sidelined. Fundamental rights are no less important for the success of the peace process than questions of devolution, but it appears that they have been absolutely rejected.

The question then is what can be done to safeguard human rights in Sri Lanka, and importantly in the North-East. We place the following practical measures for consideration:

1. Internationally recognised human rights practitioners to be included in the SLMM with special emphasis on areas where violations are prevalent.

2. Implementing effective system of protecting persons under immediate threat from the LTTE and children threatened with conscription and re-conscription.

3. Time and again the LTTE has shown that it would use any means to consolidate its power over the community regardless of the international community's gestures. It has killed unarmed intellectuals, community leaders, political leaders and a former prime minister of India. LTTE spokesmen and leaders who justify these killings and have continuously made threats against alternative voices have been allowed the freedom of movement and residence in all parts of the world with almost no tangible impediment. But dissidents who value democracy and justice are hunted down relentlessly and killed on the streets all over Sri Lanka, where they must remain if they are to continue the struggle for these life-giving values. It is time for the international community, if they care for the well-being of the Tamil community as well as the people of Sri Lanka, to demonstrate in clear unambiguous terms their disgust for the LTTE's repression, political killings, child conscription and its imposition of a suicide culture on the weak and vulnerable.

Against the realities we have outlined, it is only systematic global measures that would move the LTTE to desist from these violations.


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