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Concerned Citizens Letter To India’s Prime Minister Regarding the Situation in Sri Lanka

by sacw.net, 12 June 2010

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06 June, 2010

The Prime Minister,

Dr. Manmohan Singh,

South Block, Raisina Hill,
- New Delhi —110 101, India

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Subject: Regarding the visit of President Mahinda Rajapakse to New Delhi

We are aware that the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse is schedule to visit New Delhi on June 8, 2010. At this juncture we., as concerned citizens of South Asia, would like to lay out a few basic concerns.

As concerned citizens of various nations in this region, we have silently witnessed the human tragedy that unfolded in Sri Lanka due to the war that was savagely fought to an end in May last year.

As you are well aware, since the declared ‘end’ of this war, there are many international human rights organisations including the US State Department Report in October, 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Rapporteur on Extra- Judicial Killings have declared beyond any further doubt that there is a dire necessity for investigations into crimes against humanity and war crimes during the final phase of that war for certain, if not from before. While the aggression and the resulting violence are two-sided in a conflict situation, we firmly believe the onus of respecting law and order and honouring international commitments falls more heavily on an elected, democratic government, than on an armed organisation that was banned by over 35 countries including India.

We are of the firm opinion that India as a member country of both SAARC and the Commonwealth of Nations, as a democratic country and a neighbour, cannot afford to ignore the human tragedy of the ethnic Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. Of the over 2.4 million Tamil people in Sri Lanka, over 300,000 were wholly uprooted from their ancestral villages and thrown into barbed wire camps as refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs). These camps were administered by the Sri Lankan military and though access was severely curtailed, it was widely known that the abject conditions in these camps are in violation of all human decency and the rights of the displaced.

We are now faced with a situation of a country, parts of which have been ravaged by war, where a long term solution in not in sight. Political will for a long term solution can only be assured with enough pressure on the Sri Lankan Government at the regional and international levels. To this end, we would like to briefly outline a few basic concerns.

They are:

1. The wholly militarised approach of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) in handling IDP issues and their supposed resettlement without a well-thought-out, democratically designed and publicly declared programme;

2. Continued military rule in Tamil areas with paramilitary groups allowed to operate in collaboration with the State security forces;

3. Lack of any credible system or mechanism for redress and reconciliation offered to the war affected Tamil people;

4. The delay in providing any just political solution to the aggravated ethnic crisis that developed into an armed conflict and protracted war.

We would like to urge the Indian Government which is yet to take an unambiguous stand on the Sri Lankan Government during and after the war. As an intrinsic part of the post-war recons-truction efforts in Sri Lanka, it is incumbent upon India to insist on basic standards of human rights to be maintained at all times; that adequate steps be taken towards to address the long and short term grievances of affected communities; and a long term political solution to the ethnic struggle be worked upon.

We therefore appeal to the Government of India, on behalf of all concerned citizens in India and South Asia who wish to see democracy flourish in the region, to impress upon the Sri Lankan President and his government to take steps immediately to implement:

1. A holistic, pragmatic “recovery programme” for the war-devastated regions of the country, which would be discussed and approved in the Sri Lankan Parliament and would be provided with a credible level of budgetary support, equal to the magnitude of the task. This programme should be monitored by a Parliamentary Select Committee, and be implemented through provincial council administrations in the North—East, that would address all issues of

(i) The affected people in the North, in the Vanni and the East, including widows, orphaned children and ex-combatants, in resettling them in their own villages or in places of their choice,

(ii) Southern war victims in border villages,

(iii) disabled soldiers, the war widows and the parents/dependents of those missing in action.

2. Demilitarising of the whole society within a stipulated, short time-frame that would immediately disband all paramilitary groups and establish law and order in the whole society.

3. Reconstitute the most recently appointed (May 17) Presidential Commission on “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation” as a South Asian Commission on Reconciliation and Reparation in Sri Lanka, as an independent commission responsible to the SAARC, with a mandate to resolve all issues of the war including disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, issues of war widows and orphaned children, discussed and approved in Sri Lankan Parlia-ment.

4. Accept a South Asian eminent civil society group that includes representation from the mainstream media, to visit war affected areas as a fact finding mission.

We urge you to include the above mentioned issues in your deliberations with the Sri Lankan President. We hope that the Indian Government will take a firm stand supporting the rights of the people of Sri Lanka, especially those most affected by the war. This, in turn, we hope, will generate the political pressure needed to ensure that the basic rights of the people in Sri Lanka are assured to them. It is only through such efforts can the island nation ensure for long term peace, justice and dignity.

As this is a serious public issue of importance, we wish to inform you that this appeal would be released to the media as public information.

Thanking you,

Signatories:

1. E. Deenadayalan, Concerned Citizens for South Asia

2. Tapan K. Bose, South Asia Forum for Human Rights

3. M. Subbu, New Trade Union Initiative

4. Saheli Women’s Group, New Delhi

5. Ashok Choudhary, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers

6. National Alliance of People’s Movement

7. Xavier Jayeraj, South Asian People’s Initiatives (SAPI), New Delhi

8. Jatin Desai, Focus on Global South

9. Delhi Forum, New Delhi

10. Ravi Hemadri, Concerned Citizens for South Asia

11. Justice Rajinder Sachar, New Delhi

12. Kuldip Nayar, New Delhi

13. Vasanthi Raman, Senior Fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi

14. Sumit Chakravarty, Mainstream, New Delhi

15. Surendra Mohan, New Delhi

16. Anuradha Chenoy, New Delhi

17. Rita Manchanda

18. V. Joseph Xavier S.J., Superior and Head of Research, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore

19. Saheli, New Delhi

20. Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, Amnesty International

21. Kavitha Muralidharan, journalist, Chennai.

22. Mary E. John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi

23. Anusha Hariharan, Student, JNU, New Delhi

24. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Jagori, New Delhi

25. Pamela Philipose, Women Feature Service, New Delhi

26. Priya Thangarajah, NLSIU, Bangalore

27. Ramlath Kavil, Mumbai

28. Supriya Madangarli, Mumbai

29. Viji P. Penkoottu, Kerala

30. Fr. Soosai Arokiasamy S.J., Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi

31. Jothi S.J., Director, Udayani Social Action Forum,Kolkata

32. Dr Veena R. Poonacha, Director, Research Center for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

33. Geeta Charusivam

34. Stan Swamy, Bagaicha, Ranchi

35. AXJ. Bosco S.J., CITRA, Secunderabad

36. Rudi Heredia, ISI, New Delhi

37. Paul Vaz, Mumbai

38. Anto Joseph, Manthan, Patna

39. JESA Patna, Bihar

40. Sunny George Kunnel, De Nobili College, Pune

41. The Director, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.