Published below is a statement initiated by young Tamil Australians for Australian citizens add their name to in order to protest against the brutal and genocidal war being waged by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) against the Tamil people.
The Tamil people are an oppressed minority in Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been waging an armed struggle for an independent state in the north-east of the island. The Sri Lankan government has refused to negotiate a settlement to the decades-long conflict, while the SLA has escalated its military assault, not just on the LTTE, but on the civilian Tamil population.
A February 20 report by the US-based Human Rights Watch accused the SLA of "slaughtering civilians", according to a Tamilnet.com article that day.
The HRW called on the Sri Lankan government to immediately cease its indiscriminate artillery attacks on civilians in the northern Vanni region and its policy of detaining displaced persons in internment camps.
"Sri Lankan forces are shelling hospitals and so-called safe zones and slaughtering the civilians there", stated HRW legal and policy director James Ross. "Sri Lankan forces have repeatedly and indiscriminately shelled areas crowded with displaced persons."
HRW also criticised the LTTE for allegedly not allowing civilians to flee areas under attack.
Although Sri Lanka claims to have almost totally defeated the LTTE, on February 20 two LTTE planes carried out bombings against Sri Lankan Air Force headquarters in the capital Colombo and an SLAF installation at Katunayakein. Two people have been reported killed.
The same day, thousands of Tamils living in the US rallied outside the White House to demand an immediate ceasefire.
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We are Australian citizens who share a deep concern about the escalating civilian crisis in Sri Lanka.
We call on the Australian government to demand the Sri Lankan authorities and the LTTE declare an immediate ceasefire.
We are deeply concerned about the lack of medical staff and aid agencies serving the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the conflict zone.
In September 2008, the Sri Lankan government evicted United Nations and international aid agencies from these areas. While the local Red Cross is still operating within the conflict area, its presence is threatened by the ongoing conflict.
The departure of international witnesses within the conflict area will remove accountability for all parties to the conflict.
The Sri Lankan government has also issued orders to doctors and other health staff to leave the conflict area immediately.
We demand the Sri Lankan government allow international monitoring and medical and aid agencies unrestricted access to the conflict zones immediately.
In direct violation of the Geneva Conventions, civilian hospitals in the conflict zones have repeatedly come under aerial bombing and shelling.
Furthermore, on February 2 the Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse stated that everything outside a government declared safety zone is a military target and no exception will be given to medical facilities.
We urge the Australian government to demand the Sri Lankan government stop the aerial bombing of hospitals and both parties cease placing civilians in direct cross-fire in all areas.
Foreign and domestic media have been banned from entering the conflict zones since January 2008, when the government unilaterally withdrew from a ceasefire and commenced its military offensive.
Without independent reporting, it is impossible to separate fact from propaganda by all parties to the conflict.
We call on the Australian government to pressure Sri Lankan officials to permit independent journalists unrestricted access to the conflict zones.
Furthermore, we recognise that the Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka have been subject to ethnic discrimination by successive Sri Lankan governments since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948.
We acknowledge that all people, including the Tamils, have the right to self-determination and must freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
We acknowledge that a military solution to this conflict will not bring lasting peace to Sri Lanka.
With the intention of ensuring long-term peace, we call on the Australian government to lead political negotiations that recognise the legitimate aspirations and protects the human rights of all Sri Lankans.