The Tamil National Alliance spokesperson MA Sumanthiran said the day to day lives of Tamils in the North-East are yet to change, stressing that the “people’s patience is running out” amidst militarisation and state sponsored changes in demography.
See tweets from the event here.
Mr Sumanthiran was speaking alongside Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US who called for more time and “patience” at a recent event on constitutional reform hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka.
The event, chaired by Wall Street Journal Columnist Sadanand Dhume at Capitol Hill on Tuesday, started with Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Prasad Kariyawasam and Tamil National Alliance spokesperson MA Sumanthiran addressing the congressional gathering.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US called for “patience” claiming “we have achieved a lot already. Daily violence has stopped. ”
The Ambassador said that ‘the government of Sri Lanka is working closely with international partners such as the UN, European Union and United States.”
Stressing that ‘all efforts will take time,’ Sri Lanka’s Ambassador said “the need of the hour is patience and tenacity, and support for moderate forces.”
In response Mr Sumanthiran noted that the day to day issues of Tamils haven’t changed, lamenting ongoing militarisation and state sponsored colonisation.
Highlighting Sri Lanka’s failure to adhere to its commitment of returning land, Mr Sumanthiran said,
“A lot of people are still not allowed to go back to their own land, and their land is still occupied by military. Sirisena’s government promised to release all private land within 100 days but 1 and a half years later 70% of private land is still occupied by the military. The Military still runs hotels, private farms.”
Commenitng on government proposals to repeal and replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Mr Sumanthiran said,
" I understand that they produced a draft law, a new national security law, and presented it to the Government, but on protest by the security sector I am given to understand that the draft has been dumped and a new committee formed now, most of whom are from the security sector, and a new piece of legislation has been drafted which I am told is worse than the PTA. So that is a very serious concern and we have raised this with the Government."
Speaking on state sponsored Sinhala colonisation of the eastern province, Mr Sumanthiran said, the “Sinhala population has grown by 888% in the Eastern province due to state sponsored colonisation schemes to forcibly change the demography of the region.”
Stressing the need to merge the Northern and Easter provinces to give the Tamil speaking people autonomy, Mr Sumanthiran added that there was a “serious issue of diluting the population and changing the demography which multiple Sri Lankan governments have admitted to.”
When asked about the disproportionate military numbers in the North and East Sri Lanka’s ambassador, said “the army will remain in the north and East but in required numbers.”
Adding to questions on Sri Lanka’s rejection of international involvement in the accountability process, Mr Sumanithrian said,
“That is not acceptable to us at all. We will insist every word and spirit of the UNHRC resolution is complied with by the Sri Lanka government.”
Sri Lanka’s ambassador concluded the event by reassuring the gathering that the government was committed to the UN resolution and working with the special rapporteurs in its implementation.
See the full text of Mr Sumanthiran's speech here.