HUMAN RIGHTS IN SRI LANKA AND DR.DESMOND TUTU - ARCHBISHOP OF SOUTH AFRICA
Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
Following Archbishop Dr. Desmond Tito's not so long ago reference to human right violation in Sri Lanka where he campaigned strongly to oust Sri Lanka from the Council and bar -election stating that she did not deserve a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council , the most reverend Bishop himself visited London on Tuesday, 10th July 2008 to deliver a lecture at the MCC Indoor Cricket School at Lords Cricket Grounds. The highlight of the lecture was the worship's reference to human conduct and fair play which accord with the spirit of cricket in promoting means of togetherness and harmony. The lecture was confined only to members of Lords. A patriotic Sri Lankan expatriate who is a member of Lords seized the opportunity meet up with the Archbishop to ' educate' him on the human rights position in Sri Lanka, followed by a comprehensive document which he posted to the Human Rights Pandit. Using a pseudonym as Herman Pathige he concluded his letter by stating , it was primarily to avoid being targeted by the LTTE agents in the UK whose violent tactics against those who oppose their sinister activities are well known. Reproduced below is the full text of his letter to Archbishop of South Africa Dr. Desmond Tutu.
Most Reverend Dr. Desmond Tutu
Dear Reverend Sir
On Tuesday 10th June 2008 I attended the 2008 Colin Cowdrey lecture delivered by your worship at the MCC Indoor Cricket School, Lords. The highlight of the lecture was your worship's reference to human conduct and fair play which accord with the spirit of cricket in promoting means of togetherness and harmony. I enjoyed the evening and was privileged to meet you and you very kindly gave me your autograph etched on the invitation for the lecture received by me as a member of Lords.
As you may recall, I mentioned to you that Sri Lanka as my home country and told you that I would be writing to you later on your views on Sri Lanka, vis-a-vis human rights, as it was not the ideal atmosphere to discuss the matter in detail.
According to your worship, Sri Lanka does not deserve a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council and your worship campaigned to oust Sri Lanka from the Council and bar re-election.
Since you have been influenced and misinformed by the Tamil expatriates living in South Africa who are ardent supporters of the separatist Tamil Tiger Movement in Sri Lanka described by the International media as the most vicious terrorist outfit in the world with links to Al Qaeda, your assessment of the actual situation in Sri Lanka is flawed in that distorted facts have been conveyed to you regarding the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka in relation to so called violation of human rights.
The stance you have taken in campaigning to reject Sri Lanka's bid to seek membership of the UN Human Rights Council comes as no surprise since it is well known that you are and have been an avid supporter of the separatist Tamil movement represented by the LTTE. AS you may recall you made a statement on 8 December 1997 under the symbolic title, " Let my people go; freedom and peace for Tamils in Sri Lanka." This statement was made after you met a Tamil Churchman, Rev.Dr. Father Emmanuel and discussed the Tamil issue. As you may not be aware the Late Rev. Emmanuel was the spokesman for the LTTE based in London and campaigned to raise funds and lobbied UK politicians with misinformation on the ethnic conflict. I have already given you a copy of the news item relating to your meeting with father Emmanuel (copy enclosed for ease of reference).
The Sri Lankan Government Forces are fighting a vicious terrorist organisation which is banned in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and India. It is not a liberation movement representing the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Government has adopted a hard line position to fight this force. Even the UK, which has realised the gravity of the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda and its agents has sought a derogation from the European Convention on human rights to allow detention without charge or trial of non-nationals and others for terrorist offences.
A threat from terrorism needs to be addressed which can entail a curb on civil liberties. However a balance needs to be struck which the Sri Lankan Government has adhered to which has not been publicised.
The following facts are set out for your worship's information in the light of the mis-information conveyed to you by the Tamil diaspora in South Africa:
" The Norwegian Monitoring Mission which observed the ceasefire agreement when it was in force recorded more breaches of conditions by the LTTE.
" Recruitment of children as child soldiers by the LTTE - UNICEF confirms.
" LTTE are killing their own people in the areas controlled by them if they refused to pay taxes to them or do not allow their children to be recruited as child soldiers. This situation is so acute in that most Tamils in these areas have fled to Tamil Nadu in South India where they have become refugees living in shanty towns and working in textile factories for a pittance. This situation was highlighted in a recent BBC TV programme and referred to Primark as one of the leading importers of clothing in the UK who marketed items of clothing produced by Tamil refugees who have fled from the LTTE controlled areas in Sri Lanka.
" The leader of the LTTE is a fugitive from justice named as the first accused in the Rajiv Ghandi assassination case in India. The Jain Commission which enquired into the case has confirmed his involvement in planning and using a suicide bomber to blow up M. Ghandi. Later Prabhakaran owned up to the vile deed and showed remorse by declaring at a press conference on 25 May 1991 in the Tamil language, " Thumbiyal Sambavan" ( a tragic incident).
" Tamils comprise 13% of the population of Sri Lanka of which 54% are outside the so-called Tamil homeland claimed by the LTTE. The 54% of Tamils live peacefully among the 80% of Sinhalese and 7% of Muslims and they do not wish to migrate to the LTTE controlled areas.
" The Sri Lanka Government has ratified 27 conventions on human rights. Members of the European Commission who visited Sri Lanka recently were satisfied with the action taken by the Government in safeguarding human rights and advised that it should publicise outside the country. The following measures were taken to address the concerns about human rights violations.
" Presidential Commission to investigate human rights violation.
" Passing of laws to provide assistance and protection to victims of torture, their life and security which has taken into account the convention against Torture Act and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights Act for which Sri Lanka is a signatory.
" Judgements of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on rights abuses have been declared in favour of victims of torture.
" The Government has encouraged Civil Society Groups and journalists to exercise vigilance and expose any violations of human rights by Police and Army personnel who act without authority and due process.
The above measures and mechanisms are in place and Sri Lanka has fulfilled important obligation in safeguarding human rights and will continue to do so.
Your worship should appreciate that Sri Lanka is facing a ruthless enemy financed and supported by the Tamil expatriates in foreign countries. It is also a fact that the LTTE has built up a rapport with mafia style criminal gangs in the south of Sri Lanka. Information is passed on to the LTTE by these gangs who are responsible for suicide bombings, victims being innocent civilians. Abductions and protection rackets are other means deployed by them. LTTE has also used ill-coordinated non-governmental organisations to feed information to them of defence plans and logistics. They are also helping the LTTE financially in the guise of providing relief to Tamils living in LTTE controlled areas.
Sri Lanka Government cannot be held responsible for the activities of the ransom seeking underworld criminal gangs who have been responsible for abductions, disappearances and torture of people. The Police in Sri Lanka are adopting a zero tolerance regime in cracking down on these elements.
It is important that your worship should take note of the recent statement made by Mr.S.C.Chandrahasan the son of the late Mr. S.J. Chelvanayakam, the founder of the Federal Party in Sri Lanka. According to him the Tamil people would be better off without a terrorist organisation in seeking a devolved political settlement within a unitary structure. This statement was made to the Indian website www. redcliff.com by Mr. Chandrahasan who is now domiciled in India. He condemned the LTTE attacks on civilians of the three races, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims in contrast to the Sri Lankan Army which does not deliberately target civilians. This view expressed by the son of Mr. S.J. Chelvanayakam, a key figure in the Tamil Nationalist Movement and hailed as the father of Eelamism which spawned the LTTE as a fighting force to seek independence for the Tamil people should be taken into account. He has stressed the need for a negotiated settlement without resorting to an armed conflict which has caused untold misery to innocent people in Sri Lanka, especially the Tamils some of whom have become refugees in their own homeland and described as internally displaced people. Some of them have fled to South India and most of them have found refuge in Southern Sri Lanka among the Sinhalese.
If your worship inspired by the Christian spirit would like to help Sri Lanka to end the carnage caused by the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, and no doubt you are eminently suitable for the task. Please do make an overture to both parties of the conflict and offer to mediate. Your worship played an important role as the Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring amity and peace among former enemies of the Apartheid regime and your expertise and dedication would be useful and effective to bring peace to a war torn country.
Hope this submission would help your worship to change your pre-conceived views and help you to assess the situation in Sri Lanka in an unbiased manner.