Reporting in the Sunday Times LK has indicated that four Tamil diaspora organisations and 318 individuals are to be delisted by the Sri Lankan government in a move to ward off a strong resolution in September when the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council will be held.
The list includes the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), British Tamils Forum (BTF), the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF). In March 2021, the Sri Lankan government issued a wide-reaching proscription on hundreds of Tamil individuals, including several on the island, and numerous diaspora organisations.
Responding to this announcement, Suren Surendiran of the Global Tamil Forum stated on Twitter:
Can #GLPeiris @MFA_SriLanka @MFASriLanka @LkDefence @MOJSriLanka @defenceLanka @KamalGunaratne @GotabayaR explain why & on what basis these 4 organisations & 318 individuals were proscribed in #SriLanka in the 1st place & apologise for this baseless proscription as you de-list! pic.twitter.com/SEcotePUew
— Suren Surendiran (@surendirans) June 13, 2022
Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, earlier this month Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, G.L. Peiris claimed Sri Lanka had made “significant progress in key areas”. He added that:
“We are actively engaged in evolving an all-party consensus regarding the need for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, to consolidate seminal democratic values enshrined in Parliament, independent institutions and salutary checks and balances on the powers of the Executive.”
A source close to the foreign ministry told the Sunday Times:
“The whole reason the minister seems to have made the effort of travelling to Geneva, when Sri Lanka was not even on the agenda, was to indicate formally to the core-group of countries, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other relevant member states, that Sri Lanka may be willing to negotiate the text of any future resolutions. This is particularly in September when the 51st sessions will be held. It is now known that a tough resolution will be placed before that session and will cover several new developments. That would include attacks on protestors, intimidation of journalists, declaration of emergency, intimidation of peaceful protestors by military personnel, as well as the counterattacks on the properties of parliamentarians. Further it could refer to the breakdown of rule of law, weakening of democracy and the selective nature of the police actions that followed the violence of May 9 and the lack of will from the Government to proceed with the investigation with vigour and conviction.”
A specific concern raised by the Sunday Times is the prospect of universal jurisdiction with Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa reportedly set to retire in two years’ time.
Read more here.
Several diaspora organisations and individuals remain banned, listed as ‘terrorists’ by the government. Even though many of these organisations function freely in many places around the world, including Europe, Canada and the United States, they risk arrest if they were ever to travel to Sri Lanka. Individuals on the island who interact with them are also liable to prosecution by Sri Lankan authorities.
Several senior figures in the Sri Lankan government, from the current foreign minister to the reigning Rajapaksa siblings have repeatedly spoken out against the Tamil diaspora in the past. Indeed, amongst Sinhala politicians in the south, including those seen to be more liberal, the spectre of the Tamil diaspora has repeatedly been raised to inflame Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist sentiment.