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Call for Negotiated Ceasefire in Sri Lanka: A Petition to Indian Mission to U.N.

by Qadri Ismail, 25 February 2009

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Stop the Humanitarian Catastrophe in Sri Lanka

To: Indian Mission to U.N.

February 25, 2009

Hon Nirupam Sen,
- The Permanent Representative,
- Republic of India, to the United Nations.

Dear Ambassador Sen,

We, the undersigned Indian citizens and persons of Indian origin, are writing to insist on urgent and effective action by the Government of India to stop the unfolding humanitarian disaster in northern Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government’s indiscriminate military actions have exacted an appalling toll on the civilian Tamil population. Unless India does its part to negotiate an immediate ceasefire, civilian casualties will continue to escalate, tarnishing India’s claim to be a morally responsible regional power.

Indeed, we have watched with growing dismay the Indian government’s effective complicity with the Sri Lankan government’s ongoing efforts to brutalize the Tamil minority. There is considerable evidence that, while publicly calling for a "political solution", the Indian government has covertly supplied military equipment and training to Sri Lanka. In July 2007, Sri Lanka’s army chief, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, told journalists that India was training 800 officers annually, free of charge, describing India’s support as “huge”. Furthermore, there are credible reports indicating that India’s support for the Rajapakse government is based on base economic calculations:: that Tamil areas destroyed by Sri Lanka’s ferocious military offensive will offer lucrative investment opportunities for Indian companies under the guise of helping Tamils living there.

If these reports are true, India’s economic and political gain will have been purchased in blood and lives. The humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka is now catastrophic. According to Human Rights Watch and Sri Lankan rights groups, since January 2009 alone, at least 1,000, and perhaps as many as 2,000, Tamil civilians have been killed as a result of the Sri Lankan military’s continuing artillery attacks and aerial bombing offensive. The military has openly targeted urban areas, including schools, hospitals, and buildings that house civilians. As a result of these reprehensible tactics, a further 7,000 people have been injured; many young children have had their limbs amputated. The Sri Lankan government, believing it is on the verge of final victory over the LTTE, has resisted all calls for a ceasefire. For its part, the LTTE continues to prevent around 200,000 civilians leaving the 50 sq. km. or so territory it still holds, effectively using these civilians as human shields.

The government is keeping those who have managed to flee the onslaught in detention camps that it has cynically and misleadingly termed “welfare villages”. Arguing that the population of internally displaced people includes “terrorists” in its ranks, the Sri Lankan government has announced plans to hold up to some 250,000 civilians – even very young children – in the camps for a period of three years. It has requested funds from the U.N. and other aid agencies to build schools, banks and hospitals inside these camps. There is credible fear that, while detaining this population, the Sri Lankan government will settle majority Sinhalese in northern Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan’s government’s ongoing offensive matches in scale and brutality the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, and deserves the same widespread condemnation. The recent appeal issued by the Indian External Affairs Ministry “to the Sri Lankan Government and to all concerned to work out appropriate and credible procedures for the evacuation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to safety, which would include the international agencies being able to oversee the movement of the IDPs” is a step in the right direction.

But it is not enough. We ask the Government of India to call for an immediate ceasefire in northern Sri Lanka, to provide urgent medical and humanitarian assistance to war refugees, and to challenge the Sri Lankan government’s proposal for compulsory confinement of these refugees in detention camps for as long as three years.

India claims to be a strong international voice for democratic rights. We think it is time for our government to speak up.


The Undersigned

click here to sign the above petition