Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, speaking on behalf of Collectif des Femmes Africaines du Hainaut at the oral update of the OHCHR inquiry into Sri Lanka, said incidents referred to by the oral update are part of a larger pattern aimed at creating the conditions of permanent subjugation of the Tamil people as a whole. Ponnambalam further called for the UN to directly contact and protect Tamil witnesses providing information in the North-East of Sri Lanka. He said
” Our organisation welcomes the oral update on Sri Lanka by OHCHR. We also welcome the expansive interpretation of resolution 25/1 (A/HRC/25/1). We particularly welcome the High Commissioner’s statement that the inquiry team ‘is giving priority to gathering and corroborating first hand information’.
As the High Commissioner is fully aware, the vast majority of those who can provide first hand information are Tamils who continue to live in North-East Sri Lanka. As the overwhelming victims, the urge to provide evidence to the inquiry is very high among the Tamil people. Further, a comprehensive inquiry will not be possible or complete without accessing these witnesses on the ground. Accordingly we urge member states to come up with a strategy that will provide these witnesses an opportunity to submit their direct evidence to the OHCHR inquiry.
There has been much focus on the Northern Province, whilst the Eastern Province has been equally affected both, during and after the war. For example, the heinous crimes committed in 2009 in Mullivaikkal in the North compares to what happened in 2007 in Vaharai in the East, and the land grab in Sampur in the East is as serious as the land grab in Valikamam in the North. We urge the OHCHR inquiry to give sufficient attention to the Eastern Province.
We note with concern the oral update’s failure to acknowledge that the Tamil people are being targeted because of their national identity. The fact that religious minorities such as the Muslims and Christians can be mentioned by name for being targets, makes the refusal to mention the Tamils by name all the more disappointing.
Most of the incidents referred to by the oral update are part of a larger pattern aimed at creating the conditions of permanent subjugation of the Tamil people as a whole – a process of de-Tamilsation which we interpret as the structural genocide of the Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka. An honest and forthright appreciation of the problems that face the Tamil people is fundamental and we call upon the OHCHR to conduct the inquiry in this spirit.”
Meanwhile A. Ganesh Kumar, speaking for the Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation at the general debate on the oral update of the OHCHR inquiry into Sri Lanka, outlined the ongoing Sinhala militarisation and human rights violations in the North-East, stating,
” Pasumai Thaayagam wishes to express our sincere gratitude for the OHCHR report on Sri Lanka. We are extremely encouraged that the High Commissioner in his opening statement attached great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has rejected the resolution and refuses to cooperate with this Council’s mandate. Instead, Sri Lanka has embarked on yet another domestic reconciliation process. It is the failure of such domestic processes in the past, driven by deep rooted impunity led this Council to establish an investigation in Sri Lanka.
Five years after the end of armed hostilities, the ground realities are a far cry from what Sri Lanka presented before this Council in its statement on September 8, 2014. Tamil areas in the North and East of Sri Lanka still remain under heavy military occupation – 85% of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala military is deployed in Tamil areas and 96% of Tamils live within 5-miles of an army base or checkpoint. As the High Commissioner himself pointed out, there is alarming increase in threats against human rights defenders, victims and witnesses, and there is severe escalation of violence against Tamil people of Muslim and Christian faiths.
When widespread and systematic attacks on the Tamils, because of their ethnic and religious differences are allowed to flourish, those responsible must be held accountable without further delay. Given the lack of cooperation from Sri Lanka, it is the responsibility of this Council to prioritize the implementation of all steps of a comprehensive investigation not only for past abuses but also for the on-going crimes against humanity that are occurring in Sri Lanka today.
In addition, this investigation must address the underlying structural patterns of violations and discrimination against the Tamils, including systems that have led to a comprehensive failure in Sri Lanka to promote and protect human rights for all.
We wish to thank the High Commissioner for the dignity and courage with which the OHCHR continues to undertake and fulfill its obligation, despite significant obstacles, to promote and protect human rights in Sri Lanka and throughout the world. “
Father S. J. Emmanuel, President of the Global Tamil Forum, an umbrella organisation for Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora groups, speaking at the UNHRC Sessions in Geneva, 25.September said that with the euphoria of a majority military conquest over the minorities, the Government is operating a fast program of ethnic cleansing and making no sincere efforts towards justice, peace and reconciliation
We are pleased to welcome wholeheartedly the statement of the High Commissioner calling for a – more fundamental and far-reaching accountability process in Sri Lanka, addressing both past and ongoing violations, which are absolutely necessary for Sri Lankans to come to terms with their past, end impunity, achieve reconciliation between communities and strengthen the rule of law.
Though the war ended in May 2009, the conflict has in fact been deepened during these last five years by the policies of the present Government. The President of Sri Lanka made promises at the conclusion of the war – to the General Secretary of the UN as well as to all the countries that helped him with finances and weapons, to win the war, that he will soon find a political solution to the ethnic conflict and seek national reconciliation. Unfortunately, what is happening within the country, the actions of the Government in increasingly violating Human Rights, especially in the North and East of the island, are very disappointing if not disastrous.
With the euphoria of a majority military conquest over the minorities, the Government is operating a fast program of ethnic cleansing and making no sincere efforts towards justice, peace and reconciliation. Its priorities are towards making Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist country by subjugating all ethnic and religious minorities by the use of extremist forces.
In this context, the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner towards establishing truth and accountability with regard to the war give us hope for the survival of Tamils and other ethnic and religious minorities to survive as human beings with equality, dignity and justice.
It is very unfortunate, that the present Government not only opposed this Resolution, but rejected it as violation of their sovereignty and arrogantly refuses to cooperate with the efforts of this Council. Having enjoyed the benefits of membership in this council as well as benefits of international contracts through this Council, it is now trying to evade its responsibilities and not live up to its commitments. Such moves set dangerous trends for the effective functioning of this Council in the future and reduce the usefulness and effectiveness of this body in protecting human rights of all the people within a member-country.