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On Tamils’ economic, social and cultural rights

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Liberation welcomes the preliminary report of Sub-Commission member Mr. Marc Bossuyt on the issue of non-discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. While still early in his mandate, it is clear that this issue is of great importance.

Liberation wishes to draw the attention of Mr. Bossuyt and the Sub-Commission as a whole to the continued discrimination of the Economic, Social and Cultural rights of the Tamils living in their traditional homeland in Sri Lanka, by the Sri Lankan government and the state armed forces.

In fact the inhuman, provocative and pernicious conduct threatens to disrupt the ceasefire arranged by the international facilitators.

As examples, Liberation points to two recent incidents.

The spontaneous post-tsunami relief offered by the international community, continues to remain blocked by the Sri Lankan state machinery from reaching the tsunami victims living in the North-East of Sri Lanka, for the simple reason these victims do not belong to the majority Sinhala nation.

There have been protests all over the Tamil areas over the desecration of their social and cultural order

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), a community based volunteer institution dedicated to humanitarian relief efforts during the war and cease-fire periods in the North-East, was entrusted by the Tamil Diaspora and magnanimous individuals all over the world with contributions to address the immediate needs of the tsunami victims. Spreading its network of service-units and dedicated volunteers throughout the North-East, the TRO was able to provide the tsunami victims with immediate relief and much required basic needs, a service it still continues.

It is an irony that a major part of the large scale tsunami relief offered by the international community, including multi-national institutions and world governments at state level, continues to sit in government ware-houses and state banks, far from the victims. Although the US, the EU, Japan and Norway have recommended a joint mechanism action on relief work, the Government of Sri Lanka, fearing withdrawal of support of the extreme nationalist junior partners in its minority coalition, delayed action for six months.

And finally when it relented to international pressure, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has acted, as had been the pattern over the last fifty years, in a discriminatory fashion, by blocking implementation of sections of the newly signed [agreement] rendering most of it inoperative.

The attitude of the government and the extreme nationalist elements in the Sinhala community, the behaviour of the Supreme Court and the deliberate action on the part of the government to keep international dignitaries, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from visiting the tsunami affected North-East, appear to precipitate distancing of Tamil people, especially the tsunami victims, from the Sinhala majority in the country.

It is indeed a pity that a natural calamity that should have brought the two nations closer, has, on the contrary, driven a wider cleavage between them.

Secondly, Liberation wishes to point out the sudden eruption of tension between communities resulting from the placement of statues of the Buddha as a symbol of imposing majority Sinhala Buddhist domination in the homeland of the Tamils where Buddhism is hardly practiced.

Liberation stresses that the Sri Lankan state machinery had been encouraging with impunity over the last six decades, a policy of indirectly sponsored colonisation in the North-East. This settlement practice, essentially shelved during the two decades of war between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers, is being renewed during the cease-fire period.

The erection of the statues of the Buddha in the Hindu or Christian areas of Trincomalee and the Batticaloa-Amparai districts within the last few months has caused fear and unease among the Tamil speaking people who have demanded their removal. There have been protests and demonstration all over the Tamil areas over the desecration of their social and cultural order.

Although the district court in Trincomalee ruled that the placing of the statue unlawful, the government still continues with the armed protection of the statue, with complete disregard to the Court ruling and the feelings of the people of the area.

Bellicose posturing of the extreme nationalist elements in the predominantly Sinhala areas, indecisive responses of the existing government, increased violence perpetrated by the state armed forces and the paramilitary forces, and the shadow war the State has been waging, indicate a decided deterioration of the situation.

We urge the Sub-Commission’s Special Rapporteur on non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights to take these into consideration this type of situation as he further elaborates his study.

The Sub-Commission as a whole could prevail on the government of Sri Lanka to take steps to activate the post-tsunami agreement (P-TOMS) quickly, in order to ameliorate the terrible condition in which the tsunami victims are still suffocating, and also to respect the economic, social and cultural rights of the Tamil people.


Compiled from the address to the Fifty-seventh session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, delivered on behalf of the NGO Liberation by Mr. Goldan Lambert

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