‘Concerned Tamils’ disappointed at arrests

The organization calling itself, "Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka" in the fifth statement issued on Monday said that it was disappointed at the arrest and detention of public servants including a senior administrative officer who had served as GA Kilinochchi when those areas were under LTTE control.

"We are unaware of the political orientation of these officers, but we do know that defying that organization was not an option available to anyone – man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, farmer or public official – so long as they were within the reach of LTTE’s capacity to punish", the statement further said.

Following is the full statement issued by the ‘Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka’:

"It is disappointing that in nearly four months since the end of the war, there has as yet been no significant initiative towards national reconciliation; indeed, any such initiative will lack credibility and is unlikely to generate a positive response so long as very large numbers of innocent Tamil war victims remain interned for no fault of theirs and, further, many of them continue to be taken away without due process of law and disappear.

"The recent floods in the Vanni resulting in tens of thousands of interned IDPs and their tents being inundated for several days by floodwater and sewage, have underlined both the dangers and the injustice of keeping 280,000 civilians confined in crowded makeshift accommodation with inadequate facilities. The imminent monsoon rains pose a threat of another massive humanitarian crisis. Equally disturbing are the political problems arising from numerous and continuing disappearances and various forms of exploitation of the internees. The bitterness generated may continue indefinitely, and foul even future initiatives towards national reconciliation.

"It is equally disappointing that there has as yet been no significant opening of political space. Despite claims to have vanquished ‘terrorism’, many dissenting voices are being detained in the name of fighting terror. Rather, from the doctors who spoke out about atrocities they had witnessed, to the journalist Tissainayagam who reported on the war, those whose speech has been seen as a threat have faced repression. The killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga in January and other journalists earlier have been followed by threats and assaults against civil society actors that question government policy. The June statement of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says that over the last year, Upali Tennakoon and ten other journalists had to go into exile because of intimidation sanctioned and strengthened by a climate of impunity.

"The past months should have catalysed a process for rebuilding national trust, not a regime of witch hunts against those the government distrusts.

"Any act of commission or omission on the part of officers in LTTE controlled territory must therefore be viewed in the context of that very real constraint. Public servants and medical personnel in the Vanni served under very difficult, stressful, and risky circumstances, and their services were both essential and greatly appreciated by the population caught up in the area. These people are therefore not war criminals, but among the victims of the war and, moreover, many of them have made very considerable and commendable contributions to the welfare of their fellow victims. The end of the war and the beginning of a process of national reconciliation should begin by attending to the needs of those who were victims of war, not by further victimising them through witch hunts.

"We remember numerous irregular acts of commission or omission on the part of very many senior and responsible persons in the state and non-state sectors in response to directives from the JVP during the First and Second Insurrections, even in areas that were claimed to be under control of the State. In those cases, the relevant authorities were generous in not pursuing action against those persons.

"We believe that the issues facing the IDPs, the issues facing independent civil society voices and that of former public servants who have fallen victim to a post-war witch hunt are linked. Minority rights are rendered more vulnerable in an authoritarian climate where voices of dissent are silenced and there is no one left to speak against the persecution of marginalized populations. Equally, the harassment and rights deprivation that is the condition of Tamils in IDP camps in the Vanni is of concern to all Sri Lankans.

"The persecution of minorities through provisions such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act generated mechanisms, legal and otherwise, that are now being used against journalists and public servants. The intimidation and violence that became endemic in the persecution of Tamils is now deployed to persecute dissenting Sri Lankans more generally.

"Historically, we have not done enough to make these links. Too few Sinhalese have spoken up against discrimination against persecution of minorities and the consolidation of majoritarianism, or the internment of Tamils IDPs. Too few Tamils have spoken out against the forcible expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province by the LTTE. This is an opportune moment to remind ourselves of Martin Niemöller’s words in Germany under the Third Reich : "In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist; And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist; And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew; And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

The following members of the Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka has jointly issued the statement:

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah,Prof. Karthigesu Sivathambi, Subramaniam Sivathasan, Thangarajah Biriyanthan, S. Chinniah, Dr. S. Ganesan, Dr. K. Ganeswaran, Kirupa Hoole, Dr. Rajan Hoole,Prof. S. Ratnajeevan Hoole,Leela Isaac,Dr. T. Jayasingam ,D. B. S. Jeyaraj, C. Kanagasabai, Dr. P Kandasamy,Dr. S. V.Kasynathan, Bhawani Loganathan, S. Malavarayar,Dr. C. S. Nachinarkinian, Dr. S. Nanthikesan, Rudra Navaratnarajah, Dr. Anita Nesiah, Lanka Nesiah, Dr. Vasuki Nesiah, Dr. P. Pathmanathan, V. Ponnambalam, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, E. Saravanapavan, K. Shanmugalingam,A. Shanmugasamy, Nagendra Subramaniam, R. Visagaperumal and Ehambaram Vivegananthan.

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