Sri Lanka

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a US-sponsored resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” on March 27.

But the resolution makes no mention of the plight of the Tamil people. The word “Tamil” does not appear once.

The resolution expresses “serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on March 14, Ananthi Sasitharan said: “We request this assembly calls for an international investigation on genocide, and as an immediate step, to come out with a mechanism to stop the ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils.”

The Tamil ethnic minority in Sri Lanka is largely based on the island's north and east. With Tamils facing discrimination and violent pogroms, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam waged a decades-long armed struggle for an independent state.

Throughout March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will be reviewing the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, among other countries, at it meeting in Geneva.

At last year’s session, the UNHRC passed a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.

“Contrary to popular belief, the end of the war has actually deepened the ethnic conflict. This is because the underlying causes for the conflict have not been addressed and in certain ways exacerbated”.

These were the words of C. V. Wigneswaran, chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Sri Lanka, addressing an academic conference in capital, Colombo, on February 13.

More than 1000 students protested against the closure of the Jaffna University on December 2, TamilNet said.

The university was reopened that day after several weeks of closure. All universities in Sri Lanka had been closed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to prevent them being used as organising centres for protests. But in the case of Jaffna University, situated in the predominantly Tamil north of the island, the closure was prolonged to prevent students from marking Heroes Day on November 27.

Nearly 1000 workers at the Ansell Lanka factory in Sri Lanka’s Biyagama Export Processing Zone have been on strike since October 11 in protest against the sacking of their union branch president. Later, 10 other union members were also sacked.

The striking workers set up a camp at the bus stop outside the factory. The company obtained a court injunction banning the camp.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on November 15 — boycotted by India and Canada in protest against the Sri Lankan regime's crimes against humanity towards the Tamil people — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said of the regime's crimes: "Sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.”

At long last the reality of the human rights crisis in Sri Lanka is appearing in the Australian media. Not just the fact that more than 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan army in a month in 2009, but that Sri Lankans of all ethnic backgrounds continue to be subject to torture, rape, arbitrary detention, disappearance and death.

The Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which opened in Sri Lanka on November 15, has meant special attention is being paid to these human rights abuses.

Last month, the High Court heard a case brought by lawyers for Ranjini, a Tamil woman who was accepted as a refugee but is being held in indefinite detention because ASIO considers her a security threat.

Ranjini is one of 47 people in this situation. They face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in detention because ASIO claims that they are “likely to engage in acts prejudicial to Australia’s security”.

Ranjini’s lawyers said detaining people for life without charge, trial or conviction for any crime is illegal. The High Court has reserved its decision.

The Tamil National Alliance won an overwhelming majority in the Northern Provincial Council elections held on September 21. TNA leader C. V. Wigneswaran is expected to become chief minister of the Northern Province, a predominantly Tamil area in the north of the island of Sri Lanka.

The TNA, with 78% of the vote, won 30 of the 38 positions on the NPC. The United Peoples Freedom Alliance, the party of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, won seven positions, while the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won one.

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