We reproduce in full a statement by the Tamil National Alliance that responds to a large excerpt from the report of the UN Panel of Experts looking into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka leaked to and published in The Island newspaper on Saturday.
We have read the disclosure made by the media, said to be the Executive Summary of the Report submitted by the Advisory Panel to the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG).
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as the democratically elected representatives of the Tamil People of the North East, who have been the worst affected victims of the recently concluded war, we consider it our duty to respond to same, while reserving a fuller response to the full Report after it becomes available to us.
We recall here with deep anguish, that for over the past half a century, we have consistently urged an acceptable and reasonable political solution to address the root causes of the ethno-nationalist conflict in the country and the exclusion of the Tamil People from meaningful powers of governance. It is the failure on the part of successive governments of the Sri Lankan State to deliver on such a political solution that has been the primary cause for the exacerbation of the conflict and the consequences thereof. The Sri Lankan State has over the years, systematically and continuously unleashed violence against unarmed Tamil civilians in order to suppress and subjugate them and to deny and deprive them of the realization of any legitimate power-sharing.
We have consistently emphasized that the Sri Lankan government had a duty to ensure that unarmed Tamil civilians are protected and not harmed in the course of whatever military operations the Government conducts against armed combatants. However, the Sri Lankan government has persistently bombed civilian populated areas, used heavy artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers in such areas, carried out attacks by deep penetration units resulting in the death of and serious injury to tens of thousands of unarmed Tamil civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands of such Tamil civilians from their homes, destroyed their homes and all their occupational equipment and other assets, reducing them to a state of destitution, deprived such unarmed Tamil civilians of shelter, food, medicines, drinking water and other essentials, shelled hospitals and relief centers and prosecuted their military operations with scant regard for the safety, well-being and dignity of the unarmed Tamil civilians in conflict areas. The extra-judicial execution and enforced disappearance of unarmed Tamil civilians and the scourge of the white vans has continued unabated. These and other accounts of horrendous incidents were contemporaneously placed on record in Parliament by the TNA and brought to the notice of all concerned.
We observe that the Report of the Advisory Panel to the UNSG confirms the truth of what happened to the unarmed Tamil civilians in the course of the conduct of the recently concluded war and is an irrefutable confirmation of the accounts of the events as reported by us to Parliament as and when they occurred. We welcome the finding by the panel that “credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.”Especially the Panel has also found credible allegations associated with the final stages of the war and that the Sri Lankan Army’s military campaign into the Vanni using large scale and widespread shelling caused large numbers of civilian deaths. The Panel states that this campaign constituted persecution of the population of the Vanni, of around 330,000 civilians. The Government’s estimate of the population in the Vanni at this time was only 70,000. The Panel also asserts that these credibly alleged violations demand a serious investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. The Panel also notes that “the Government’s notion of accountability is not in accordance with international standards.” The Panel also requires that the Government genuinely addresses the allegations of violations committed by both sides and to place the rights and dignity of the victims of the conflict at the centre of its approach to accountability, if its measures are not to fall dramatically short of international expectations. In this context, the Panel has recommended certain measures, which as a whole, it hopes will serve as a framework for an ongoing and constructive engagement between the Secretary-General and the Government of Sri Lanka on accountability. We welcome the recommendations made by the Panel and trust that they will be honestly implemented.
Most importantly, the Panel has observed that an environment conducive to accountability which would permit a candid appraisal of the broad patterns of the past, including the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict, does not exist at present. It would require concrete steps towards building an open society in which human rights are respected, as well as a fundamental shift away from triumphalism and denial towards a genuine commitment to a political solution that recognizes Sri Lanka’s ethnic diversity and a full and inclusive citizenship of all its people, including Tamils as a foundation for the country’s future.
The TNA on its part has always been committed and continues to be committed towards achieving a genuine political solution that recognizes Sri Lanka’s ethnic diversity and a full and inclusive citizenship of all its Peoples, including Tamils as a foundation for permanent peace and stability in the country.
We therefore urge the Government of Sri Lanka not to miss this opportunity and to constructively engage in a process which would result in all the Peoples of Sri Lanka being the beneficiaries of genuine democracy, equality and justice.
Parliamentary Group Leader
Tamil National Alliance
18th April 2011