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Time is of the essence

By Bruce Haigh - posted Friday, 28 October 2011


The primary focus of Australian diplomacy towards Sri Lanka is to prevent Tamils from getting onto boats and coming to Australia. To that end there is an AFP presence at the Australian High Commission to liaise and work with the Sri Lankan navy, army and police.

How will they explain these activities at CHOGM? How will Australia explain that its sole cause of concern for the ravaged and defeated Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka is to prevent them seeking refugee status? It is not a good look for a country chasing a seat on the UN Security Council.

However the Australian narrow self concern is surpassed by that of the Sri Lankan government. Two years after the end of the war and all indicators are that Tamils are being pushed to the margins of survival.

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In June three members of the Malaysian Parliament went to Sri Lanka. They were, Dato Johari Abdul, M. Manogaran and Senator S. Ramakrishnan. They produced a,"Report on fact finding trip to Sri Lanka by Malaysian Parliamentarians", parts of which I quote.

The Sri Lankan government is continuing to mutilate and neglect the war-victimized Tamil community in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The ruling government is only interested in further cleansing any LTTE remnants and mentally rehabilitating LTTE cadres into accepting the current Sinhala mastery in Colombo. It continues to militarize and Sinhalarize (sic) the whole northern and eastern provinces. The traumatized and grieving Tamil population is under complete control of the army. The army controls and in the process rapes, robs, sexually harasses and loots the Tamils of whatever little they have. The Tamils in the northern and eastern provinces will not be able to recuperate and settle back to normalcy for a long time to come. The army is a lord unto themselves and they control and monitor any outside contact and help given to the captive Tamils in IDP camps.

The destabilized Tamil community is struggling among themselves to share very limited resources and the past family cohesiveness and supportiveness is fading away... To add insult to injury the Sri Lankan government is attempting to settle the Sinhalese in the Northern Province which has been the homeland of the Tamils for centuries.

Till today nobody is held accountable for war crimes and many war criminals are appointed to high ranking offices and sent as ambassadors to foreign countries...The urgent task is to bring the Sri Lankan government to a war crime tribunal and undertake humanitarian work urgently. All attempts must be made to demilitarize the military zones and decentralize the governance and the administrative function to the Northern Province... Although the war is over, the conflict is not over and civilians who may not have any part in the war are being punished severely.

There is widespread, planned 'genocide' of the Tamil people; girls and women are raped and mutilated so as to prevent them from conceiving in future... we were told that in Jaffna hospital alone 5-6 girls go in for abortions daily.

Women cadres (LTTE) who have been released from rehabilitation camps are subjected to the worst of atrocities and many of these women are still in their late teens and early twenties...

Due to the lack of income women are forced into prostitution to make ends meet and the only male presence in the villages are the police or Military. The only interactions these women have are with the Military.

...There now lives a whole population of widowed women, fatherless children who are all victims of trauma. Their emotional stability has not been addressed, there have been no avenues of release or dealing with it and if it proceeds to go unaddressed, the next generation will carry the conditioning of the war. Repercussions of this conditioning can be seen in violent and abusive or withdrawn characteristics and substance abuse.

...More than 30,000 children were orphaned and with the lack of orphanages and proper schooling they are forced into the labour sector...Sexual abuse is also rampant in the orphanages.

There is a clear distinction between being returned and being resettled...women and men were forced to return back to nothing with nothing and to return to normalcy. One is not sure what normalcy means to these people anymore.

Resettlement homes include tin sheets and wooden plank infrastructure. This structure was meant to be for only a period of 6 months. This was in January 2010; presently June 2011 there are still no toilets, wells or even flooring for these temporary transition homes. The Government to date has no housing scheme in place.

Over 300,000 people are in these camps with little or no hope of returning to their original homes. Most homes are destroyed and many Tamil lands are now being resettled by Sinhalese people. Buddhist temples are being erected in areas where there are no Buddhists.

All possible human rights violations are taking place. Activists are labelled as traitors if they seek international help and alliances. Dissent is labelled and attacked as anti-Sri Lanka. All sorts of crime is now being committed by the authorities including rapes of Tamil women and girls on a daily basis. The Sri Lankan Army hates the LTTE and, by extension the Tamils. In the last month over 48 people from Jaffna went missing and are still unaccounted for.

Although the Tamils and Muslims have suffered the most, surprisingly none of them had anything bad or adverse to say about the LTTE. In fact a number of them said they felt safer when the LTTE was around.

The hostility of many Sinhalese, particularly the police, army and navy toward the Tamils led to a three decade war, ending only with the defeat of the Tamil armed forces in 2009. The above report details the ongoing discrimination and hostility toward the Tamils by the government of Sri Lanka and its agencies. This discrimination is racially based and in the manner that it is now being expressed amounts to genocide.

Through their complete denial of human rights to the vanquished Tamils the government of Sri Lanka has validated the war fought by the Tamils against the majority Sinhalese supremacists. The Tamils always understood that this was the Sinhalese end game, that the Sinhalese always wanted to dominate and control the lives of the Tamils.

Faced with a military imbalance the breakaway Tamils had to match the state sponsored and funded armed forces of Sri Lanka, modelled on former colonial administrator, Great Britain.

The government of Sri Lanka over the decades of conflict with the Tamils was corrupt. Many of the vital supplies and arms required by the Tamils were received in this way; but the corruption of the present Rajapaksa government and the 52 members of his family who are members of the government, has surpassed the poor record of earlier governments.

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In 2009, the international media watchdog Reporters without Borders rated Sri Lanka number 162 out of 175 countries in terms of media freedom; the activities of the death squads threat enforces the government's control of the media.

On Thursday 20 October the Global Tamil Forum held an all day conference at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney. Delegates attended from all over the world and around Australia. The Sri Lankan High Commission made around forty telephone calls to the hotel seeking to have the hotel withdraw the conference venue. The hotel refused, but it should have reported the conduct of the High Commission to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The High Commission continues to ring and harass members of the Tamil community in Australia; these people are Australian citizens. The AFP and ASIO continue to have close contact with the Sri Lankan High Commission in the interests of terrorism and people smuggling. In view of the ongoing activities of the High Commission this closeness of contact should cease.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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