"Separation inevitable if power continues to polarize with ethnic hegemony" - Mano Ganesan
[TamilNet, Thursday, 11 October 2007, 13:07 GMT]
Mano Ganesan MP, the leader of the Western Province People's Front (WPPF) and the convener of the Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC), engaged in monitoring abductions, addressing the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, at the UN office in Colombo, on Thursday, said that the Tamils would be forced to seek separation as the only alternative if the Sri Lankan government failed to satisfy the "Sri Lankan dream," which he described as a dreamland with political power sharing between all the ethnic communities, where there are no places for war, abductions, extra judicial killings and where there is no room for polarization of political power with ethnic hegemony.
Family members and relatives of missing persons staged sit-in protest in front of the UN office in Colombo
Louise Arbour, the visting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, seen among the relatives and family members of the abducted, with Mano Ganesan MP
30 family members and relatives of the missing persons met the UN High Commissioner with CMC representatives
More than 30 families, including Dr. M. Malaravan, the son-in-law of Prof. S. Raveendranath, the Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University, abducted in Colombo, were allowed to meet the visiting UN High Commissioner inside the UN office.
Around 200 family members and relatives of the missing persons took part in a demonstration in front of the UN Office, located on Bullers Road in Colombo 07 when the CMC representatives together with the family members of the missing persons met Ms. Louise Arbour.
Also present were CMC chairman Srithunga Jayasooriya, Tamil National Alliance MP Suresh Premachandran and many other representatives of Human Rights defender groups.
Full text of the address by Mr. Mano Ganesan follows:
"Madam High Commissioner,
Members of the UN secretariat in Colombo,
Chairman Sirithunga, Hon’ble Suresh and other activists of Civil Monitoring Commission, Fellow Human Rights Defenders,
Complainants, the Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, Children and all family members of the victims!
This is my plea and presentation to the United Nations on behalf of the voiceless and unfortunate people of this country.
"Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is home to twenty million people. On the 17th of November 2005, the current President HE Mahinda Rajapakse took oaths as the President of the country for a 6 year term.
"The relative peace that prevailed until then was shattered due to the escalation of conflict between the GoSL and LTTE since the beginning of last year. This has led us into the present ruthless war and saga of blunt human rights violations.
"Most of the sufferers are members of the Tamil community. We are faced with following brutal challenges to the right to our physical existences in this country;
- Enforced Disappearances
- Extra-judicial killings
- Aerial and Artillery bombardments
- Death due to torture in custody
- Enforced eviction from places of residences
- Arbitrary arrests
- Arrest and detention without proper legal process
- Poor custodial prison conditions
- Judicial process not being followed during arrests and detentions
- Killings of over 35 humanitarian aid workers
- Harassment of humanitarian aid workers
- Displacement of persons over 300,000 internally and over one million externally
- Forced and arbitrary resettlement of people
- Curtailment of media freedom and Intimidation
- Killings of Journalists
"Madam High Commissioner,
"The list is long. Enforced Disappearances are the greatest of the tragedies that are taking place in our country today. All if not most of the over 1,500 victims in the last 20 months are of Tamil ethnicity. Currently the Civil Monitoring Commission has a total of 163 incidents recorded mostly in Colombo and suburbs. Few of the family members of the victims are present here, today. Some are waiting on the streets outside the compound of this UN office. However, this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. The number in the North and the East of the country is not adequately represented here due to security and logistical reasons. The number of disappearances is reportedly many folds higher in the North and East. You will be met by the human rights defenders and hapless people who will explain you, Madam High Commissioner, in Jaffna tomorrow.
"Civil Monitoring Commission is mandated to monitor Enforced Disappearances, Abductions, and Extrajudicial Killings, Extortions, Arbitrary arrests and detentions in Sri Lanka. We did not institute ourselves in haste. We began by drawing together the families of the Disappeared to question those who are responsible about what has happened to those who have been abducted in this country. We have had met His Excellency the President of this country, Members of his cabinet of Ministers, the Defence Secretary and the Inspector General of police.
"We decided to form CMC when all our appeals went unheard. We established Civil Monitoring Commission on September 19th, last year. The Co-Founder with us was Hon’ble Nadaraja Raviraj, Member of Parliament for Jaffna district. On November, 09th last year, 50 days after the establishment of CMC, my dear friend Nadaraja Raviraj was gunned down in high security zone in this capital city of Colombo. This was the kind of responses we are faced with in our campaign of finding the fate of missing persons. We picketed; we agitated; we have had meetings of families and friends of the disappeared; we invited the Leader of Opposition of the Sri Lanka Parliament and civil society members and Colombo’s diplomatic community. We tried different means to get the attention of those in government and the international community.
"This government at the early stages totally denied the occurrences of disappearances in this country. Later it said some groups were doing this to discredit the government. Very later Government was forced to nominate many Committees and Commissions when indisputable involvement of the influential sections of state and the Paramilitary groups surfaced.
"The list of numerous institutions, committees and commissions to investigate the human rights abuses is very long in Sri Lanka. They are, (1) the Human Rights Commission (2) Ministry of Human Rights (3) Ministerial Advisory Committee of prominent persons (4) Mahanama Thilakaratne Commission (5) Special Presidential Commission on selected 16 incidents (6) The IIGEP (7) Ministerial Committee on Disappearances.
"However none of these have produced any results. The investigations are conducted in very half-hearted manner. The culture of impunity is very severe. The saga of abductions and extra judicial killings are continuing in the North and East & Colombo and Suburbs.
"Government’s repeated promises on investigations and bringing the culprits to the court of law, lack credibility. Currently, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into the serious violations of Human Rights (CoI) have not been able to make much headway in relation to the 16 cases they have been mandated to investigate. The issues related to the conformity of international norms and conflict of interest of the role of the Attorney General’s Department that the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) have raised, have not been addressed. As such, we find that the mere appointment of Commissions do not bring justice to those who suffer serious violations of human rights.
"Madam High Commissioner,
"City Colombo alone has witnessed over 100 incidents of Disappearances in last 12 Months. Armed men frequent in white vans have abducted Tamil men and women. You would have noted that every street in this city is well protected with security check-points. But none of these abductor vehicles have been stopped at these at these points and abductors arrested and abductees released. It indicates the state complicity. This is the situation in the capitol of Sri Lanka. The situation in North and East is very much worst.
"As a response to the growing national and international pressure, the President invited some of those family members of the missing persons to Presidential Secretariat. Some of those who went to meet the President are here, now in this auditorium. They will tell you what happened there. After their meeting, the government responded by saying that 90% of those gone missing have come home and some had gone abroad.
"But in reality nobody has come home.
"The detailed list of the missing persons with respective police complaint numbers compiled by CMC have been forwarded to the government. Hon Prime Minister by his letter dated 10th August, 2007 to me has acknowledged receipt of our list of missing persons. The Controller of Immigration and Emigration who is in-authority for travel abroad has also acknowledged receipt of this list by his letter dated 14th August, 2007 to me. The Chairman of the Police commission by his letter dated 17th August, 2007 has acknowledged receipt of this list. In responses to our correspondences with over 40 police stations in the country where the complaints of missing persons have been made several police stations have sent replies. None of the responses state of any missing persons returning home as claimed by the government.
"The CMC challenges this government to prove and publish the whereabouts of the persons whom it claims to have come home. And also the names of those who have gone abroad and numbers of their passports issued by the Controller of Immigration and Emigration.
"Madam High Commissioner,
"When the national human rights institutions are hopeless, when state complicity and involvement are effective, when the investigations are farce with culture of impunity, we have no other way out but to look towards the international community.
"The GoSL cannot escape the blame of guilty party of blunt Human rights violations on its side by just pointing fingers at alleged LTTE atrocities. Government is party to international conventions within the world community. GoSL should understand the differences between a guerilla organisation and a government.
"We appeal you to ensure the establishment of International Independent Human Rights Monitoring Mission with field presence in Colombo, Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Amparai and Kilinochchi. The field presence must cover both territories controlled by GoSL and LTTE. In addition it is an urgent necessity that your office in Sri Lanka is strengthened.
"Madame High Commissioner,
"I have come to the end of my plea and presentation. May I finish it with describing my dream to you? I have a dream. That is the Sri Lankan dream. A dreamland where there are no places for war, abductions and extra legal killings but peace and rule of law; no place for polarisation power and ethnic hegemony but determined political power sharing between all the ethnic communities. We will make this dream come true with the support of the United Nations. If otherwise, Tamils of this land unwillingly or willingly may be made to seek separation."