This is a letter from Srilankan campaign (www.srilankacampaign.org), which has been tirelessly working on human rights in Sri Lankan, particularly the release of those unlawfully detained Tamils IDPs.
Please, take action by signing the letter to Ban, Gi-Moon as the following text guides
You deserve to do it, if you’re honorable human being respecting basic rights of anyone.
– Penseur21 –
Thank you for signing our Sri Lanka Campaign petition, and for other things you may be doing to help.
As a result of your concern and support, and the pressure from us and other human rights and pro-democracy campaigning groups, we have seen some very important steps;
- the recommendation from the EU Commission that because of the human rights abuses, Sri Lanka should not continue to have special treatment for its exports
- the US State Department report on the gross human rights abuses and likely war crimes
- the overwhelming vote by the US Congress
- the statement by the universally respected group known as The Elders, including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Lakhdar Brahimi, who is a member of the Council of Advisers of our Sri Lanka Campaign.
- and most recently, the rejection by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Annual Meeting of Sri Lanka’s bid to host the 2011 meeting.
This pressure has helped to accelerate movement of people out of the camps. But people are still not really free to leave and, in practice, do not fully enjoy this most basic of human rights. Some who have left are not able to return home. There is clear evidence that Tamil cultural monuments are being destroyed. And we are hearing credible stories of harassment and abuse – rickshaw boys who are told to buy goods for the military without payment, women who are now “voluntarily” providing sexual services to soldiers, because it is the only way to ensure food and safety, and the elderly who are without adequate food. Perhaps most at risk are the 12,000 alleged LTTE combatants still held in special camps to which the International Committee of the Red Cross has virtually no access. The news black-out means none of this can be investigated and proved/dismissed. But rather than be guided by what has happened in the past – and therefore what is very likely to be happening now – the world is being encouraged to think the troubles are over.
So those of us who know and care need to take the campaign to a new level!
First, please sign the new letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – www.srilankacampaign.org/takeaction.htm
Second, and now that we have powerful statements from people who cannot be easily dismissed, please send a letter/email to your elected representative (in many countries, he/she has a duty to respond) and to any other opinion-shapers you know personally. An opinion-shaper could be a journalist or a sports person or an actor or a well-respected academic: many of us have someone like this in our networks. Send them something like our sample letter (click here to download sample letter), but personalised. And then follow up in a week, ideally by phone: they need to know you really care.
As important, please write to us (using this email address) to say whom you have contacted. This step is important so that we have a fuller picture of where inroads are being made and where there are gaps, as we create an international group of informed public advocates for peace and justice in Sri Lanka.
And finally please choose a few people who you know will be sympathetic – whether because they are concerned Sri Lankans, human rights supporters or pro-democracy activists – and ask them to do the same. What each individual can do will of course vary widely. For example, one supporter has persuaded a friend who is a professional facilitator to organise a dialogue between French people who know about Sri Lanka and people who might be able to influence the French government.
This type of personal lobbying is particularly critical because the Government of Sri Lanka has intentionally created a news black-out. There is a big danger that the internees as well as the general human rights situation will just drop off the radar, and people will assume that the situation has improved. But for us, supporters of the Campaign, the bottom-line is clear.
As long as there are people still in the camps (whatever the number); and
As long as “release” simply means new holding centres or otherwise wholly inadequate conditions where people have been “resettled”, and
As long as people in these camps, including those detained as alleged members of the LTTE, face huge risks to life and well-being.
So long will this Campaign continue.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We are doing our best to figure out what would help the innocent civilians who have already been imprisoned for too long. If you have any suggestions, please tell us and we will respond as soon as possible.
And finally, let us remember and be inspired by the words of the last editorial that Wickramatunga, editor of Sri Lanka’s The Leader and brave defender of the rights of all Sri Lankans, wrote earlier this year – shortly before (and in anticipation of) his assassination.
No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.
With great foresight he predicted that: .a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity.
With your help, we still have a chance to prevent this.
The Campaign Team