Mural portrays Sri Lanka's denial of human rights to Tamils

December 12, 2008

On 10 December, marking 60 years from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the world celebrated Human Rights Day, the Sri Lankan state continued its denial of basic human rights to the Tamils of north-east Sri Lanka.

On the very same day Tamil and non-Tamil Australian youth gathered at Circular Quay, Sydney to paint a colossal mural measuring 15 metres long, as part of the "Remember; Restore; Respect... Tamil Human Rights Campaign" organised by Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO) of Australia.

"Through the mural we wanted to ask the international community to remember the Tamils' suffering, restore the Tamils' basic human rights and respect the Tamils' right to self-determination", said Lakshmi Rajan, a member of the TYO.

"Art is the best form of communication", said Nisha Thillai, another participant who painted a picture of three Tamils raising the flag of Tamil Eelam. "We can portray our message and anyone of any age or language will understand the yearning of the Tamils", she added.

The event received media publicity and a large audience of Australian public. "The idea is great", said Sarah Louis, an onlooker. "Issues like this should get more publicity in the media", she added.

In January 2008, the Government of Sri Lanka unilaterally withdrew from a Norwegian brokered cease-fire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Since then, it has intensified its military operations in Tamils areas in an attempt to regain territory held by the LTTE.

It has prohibited independent media personnel from visiting LTTE held areas and in September 2008, ordered all UN and international aid agencies to vacate these areas.

As the Sri-Lankan government prepared to go to war, UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour predicted that an "intensification of hostilities would likely have a devastating effect on the human rights of many Sri Lankans from all communities".

However, in response, the government issued a statement dismissing her threat of legal sanctions as "pathetically unenforceable" and rejected her warnings as "thinly-veiled... threats" which are "attempting to undermine the morale of its military, deter its military campaigns and save separatist terrorism from elimination".

"The weakness of the rule of law and prevalence of impunity is alarming... there is a large number of reported killings, abductions and disappearances which remain unresolved", Arbour stated. The response from the Sri Lankan government was: "The Government's position is very clear — we are not willing to discuss in any way the UN presence in Sri Lanka for monitoring purposes... Neither are we ready to discuss the opening of an office of the high commissioner in Sri Lanka."

This year, Amnesty International highlighted that "the rule of law continues to be undermined and the culture of impunity persists. The government must make protection of human rights the top priority. Instead, human rights defenders have also been increasingly attacked or threatened".

As Tamils in Sri Lanka are denied their basic of human rights, the Sri Lankan government continues to commit unspeakable atrocities with impunity.

On November 29, the Sri Lankan air force attacked a Tamil refugee camp in a "secure zone" it had unilaterally announced, dispatching a cluster bomb which killed three civilians including a five year old boy. The attack came five days before a treaty was signed by 92 countries in Norway banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions internationally.

The mural (pictured) will be exhibited at future events around Australia and later in Tamil Eelam.

[This article originally appeared on]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.