Colombo, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Open Letter to His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka and the leadership of the LTTE

The undersigned are (a) citizen/s of Sri Lanka who are/is extremely concerned about the current plight of over one hundred thousand civilians trapped between the security forces of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.

We appreciate the Government’s right and duty to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka and its people. We understand that the Government considers its current military initiatives integral to the fulfilment of this right and duty. We also understand that the Government has stated that a primary objective of its ongoing military initiatives is the liberation of the civilian populace in the conflict zones.

We also note that a primary stated intention of the LTTE in carrying out its armed initiatives is the securing of self-determination for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.

In this context, we write on behalf of the civilians presently trapped within the conflict zones – because they are all Sri Lankans and fellow citizens who have been rendered voiceless by their present plight. We therefore trust that you will take due and serious note of these our concerns.

We perceive the urgent needs of these civilians to be the following:

  • To be safeguarded from being subjected to crossfire
  • To be provided with medical aid and assistance for those who are injured, ill or otherwise indisposed
  • To be supplied with food and other facilities fundamental for survival
  • To be granted leave as well as transportation means to be evacuated from conflict areas
  • To be released from conscription and forced labour
  • To be assured of safety, security and dignity when they relocate

Both Your Excellency and you, the leaders of the LTTE, have asserted that you are striving through military means to redress the past grievances and ensure the future prosperity of the very people who are presently undergoing abject hardship as a result of your respective liberation campaigns.

Therefore, we feel it is imperative that urgent and immediate steps be taken by you to safeguard the right of all affected civilians to safety, security, the freedom of movement and the freedom to choose one’s residence. As citizens, it is our responsibility to ensure that these rights are achieved for our fellow Sri Lankans.

Our plea to the LTTE

  • Cease and desist from holding civilians hostage and endangering their lives to protect your cadre and strategic positions, as has been observed and intimated by United Nations organisations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch
  • Refrain from using civilians as human shields in your armed initiatives
  • Refrain from hindering the free passage of civilians wishing to leave the conflict zones, especially as their continued presence within such areas against their wishes would be contrary to your stated intention of safeguarding the people from harm
  • Facilitate the evacuation of civilians from within the conflict areas to safe zones
  • Permit international agencies to enter conflict areas and transport all civilians desirous of leaving to safety – without restrictions, threats or compromising their security

Our plea to the President of Sri Lanka

  • Consider civilians in conflict zones as hostages of the LTTE , and treat such civilians in a manner you and your government would treat any Sri Lankan citizen held hostage by a third party
  • Ensure the maintenance of hospitals (with adequate medical facilities) within safe zones, in keeping with the Geneva Conventions and the provision of essential services therein.
  • Increase the number, scope and extent of safe zones
  • Ensure that no military initiatives are carried out by the security forces that may even inadvertently target such safe zones
  • Facilitate independent reporting and monitoring with a view to allaying the fears of those within LTTE controlled areas, about the treatment they will receive when they exit

In conclusion, we strongly feel that what matters most at this time is that these citizens of Sri Lanka, who have been and continue to be subject to grave danger, trauma and intolerable indignities, are rescued from their plight by you, the only parties who have it in your power to ensure that the people you have vowed to protect are, indeed, safeguarded.

In earnest anticipation of a swift and appropriate response, we are

Yours truly,

{Signatories}

 

Editors note: Groundviews has since its inception maintained that it is not a site for campaigns, given the plethora of avenues for promoting campaigns and raising awareness through media, the Internet and the web. From MIA (misguided and ill-informed, but as an article on Groundviews recently notes “One MIA may make up for thousands of Tigers killed in action“), to students in the US protesting the humanitarian crisis in the North by fasting, there are a number of recent campaigns making the rounds on the web that highlight,

  • from the perspective of pro-war / pro-government supporters the need to vigorously continue the final stages of the war effort against the LTTE, 
  • from the perspective of anti-government supporters the need to stop the war which they see as genocide, 
  • from the perspective of the humanitarian community which see the conflict as that which is exacerbating a bloody crisis on the ground with civilians killed and maimed by indiscriminate shelling of ostensibly undeterminable origin. 

These positions are complex and contested. 

The open letter above is published to debate its contents as well as the situation in the North it highlights. Interlocutors are kindly encouraged to stick to substantive issues and abide by site guidelines, in line with some excellent content and resulting debate we have seen here of late on similar lines (e.g. Michael Robert’s article and comments here and Dayan Jayatilleke’s article and comments here).